Intralocus sexual conflict unresolved by sex-limited trait expression

Curr Biol. 2010 Nov 23;20(22):2036-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.10.023. Epub 2010 Nov 4.


Sexually antagonistic selection generates intralocus sexual conflict, an evolutionary tug-of-war between males and females over optimal trait values [1-4]. Although the potential for this conflict is universal, the evolutionary importance of intralocus conflict is controversial because conflicts are typically thought to be resolvable through the evolution of sex-specific trait development [1-8]. However, whether sex-specific trait expression always resolves intralocus conflict has not been established. We assessed this with beetle populations subjected to bidirectional selection on an exaggerated sexually selected trait, the mandible. Mandibles are only ever developed in males for use in male-male combat, and larger mandibles increase male fitness (fighting [9, 10] and mating success, as we show here). We find that females from populations selected for larger male mandibles have lower fitness, whereas females in small-mandible populations have highest fitness, even though females never develop exaggerated mandibles. This is because mandible development changes genetically correlated characters, resulting in a negative intersexual fitness correlation across these populations, which is the unmistakable signature of intralocus sexual conflict [1]. Our results show that sex-limited trait development need not resolve intralocus sexual conflict, because traits are rarely, if ever, genetically independent of other characters [11]. Hence, intralocus conflict resolution is not as easy as currently thought.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Size
  • Coleoptera / anatomy & histology*
  • Coleoptera / genetics
  • Coleoptera / physiology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mating Preference, Animal*
  • Reproduction
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sex Factors