Assessing the potential for an ongoing arms race within and between the sexes: selection and heritable variation

Evolution. 2005 Jul;59(7):1540-51.


In promiscuous species, sexual selection generates two opposing male traits: offense (acquiring new mates and supplanting stored sperm) and defense (enforcing fidelity on one's mates and preventing sperm displacement when this fails). Coevolution between these traits requires both additive genetic variation and associated natural selection. Previous work with Drosophila melanogaster found autosomal genetic variation for these traits among inbred lines from a mixture of populations, but only nonheritable genetic variation was found within a single outbred population. These results do not support ongoing antagonistic coevolution between offense and defense, nor between either of these male traits and female reproductive characters. Here we use a new method (hemiclonal analysis) to study genomewide genetic variation in a large outbred laboratory population of D. melanogaster. Hemiclonal analysis estimates the additive genetic variation among random, genomewide haplotypes taken from a large, outbred, locally adapted laboratory population and determines the direction of the selection gradient on this variation. In contrast to earlier studies, we found low but biologically significant heritable variation for defensive and offensive offspring production as well as all their components (P1, fidelity, P2, and remating). Genetic correlations between these traits were substantially different from those reported for inbred lines. A positive genetic correlation was found between defense and offense, demonstrating that some shared genes influence both traits. In addition to this common variation, evidence for unique genetic variation for each trait was also found, supporting an ongoing coevolutionary arms race between defense and offense. Reproductive conflict between males can strongly influence female fitness. Correspondingly, we found genetic variation in both defense and offense that affected female fitness. No evidence was found for intersexual conflict in the context of male defense, but we found substantial intersexual conflict in the context of male offensive sperm competitive ability. These results indicate that conflict between competing males also promotes an associated arms race between the sexes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Competitive Behavior / physiology*
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Male
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Spermatozoa / physiology