Genetic architecture of sensory exploitation: QTL mapping of female and male receiver traits in an acoustic moth

J Evol Biol. 2013 Dec;26(12):2581-96. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12252. Epub 2013 Oct 7.


The evolution of extravagant sexual traits by sensory exploitation occurs if males incidentally evolve features that stimulate females owing to a pre-existing environmental response that arose in the context of natural selection. The sensory exploitation process is thus expected to leave a specific genetic imprint, a pleiotropic control of the original environmental response and the novel sexual response in females. However, females may be subsequently selected to improve their discrimination of environmental and sexual stimuli. Accordingly, responses may have diverged and the original genetic architecture may have been modified. These possibilities may be considered by studying the genetic architecture of responses to male signals and to the environmental stimuli that were purportedly 'exploited' by those signals. However, no previous study has addressed the genetic control of sensory exploitation. We investigated this question in an acoustic pyralid moth, Achroia grisella, in which a male ultrasonic song attracts females and perception of ultrasound likely arose in the context of detecting predatory bats. We examined the genetic architecture of female response to bat echolocation signals and to male song via a cartographic study of quantitative trait loci (QTL) influencing these receiver traits. We found several QTL for both traits, but none of them were colocalized on the same chromosomes. These results indicate that - to the extent to which male A. grisella song originated by the process of sensory exploitation - some modification of the female responses occurred since the origin of the male signal.

Keywords: acoustic communication; predatory-prey interactions; receiver bias; sensory ecology; sexual selection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Male
  • Moths / genetics
  • Moths / physiology*
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*