The evolution of heterochiasmy: the role of sexual selection and sperm competition in determining sex-specific recombination rates in eutherian mammals

Genet Res (Camb). 2009 Oct;91(5):355-63. doi: 10.1017/S0016672309990255.


Early karyotypic work revealed that female and male recombination rates in many species show pronounced differences, and this pattern of heterochiasmy has also been observed in modern linkage mapping studies. Several hypotheses to explain this phenomenon have been offered, ranging from strictly biological mechanisms related to the gametic differences between the sexes, to more evolutionary models based on sexually antagonistic selection. However, despite the long history of interest in heterochiasmy, empirical data has failed to support any theory or pattern consistently. Here I test two alternative evolutionary hypotheses regarding heterochiasmy across the eutherian mammals, and show that sexual dimorphism, but not sperm competition, is strongly correlated with recombination rate, suggesting that sexual antagonism is an important influence. However, the observed relationship between heterochiasmy and sexual dimorphism runs counter to theoretical predictions, with male recombination higher in species with high levels of sexual dimorphism. This may be the response to male-biased dispersal, which, rather than the static male fitness landscape envisioned in the models tested here, could radically shift optimal male fitness parameters among generations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Cattle
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Dogs
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Female
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mammals / classification
  • Mammals / genetics
  • Mice
  • Recombination, Genetic*
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sex Determination Processes
  • Sperm-Ovum Interactions