Between-sex genetic covariance constrains the evolution of sexual dimorphism in Drosophila melanogaster

J Evol Biol. 2014 Aug;27(8):1721-32. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12429. Epub 2014 Jun 3.


Males and females share much of their genome, and as a result, intralocus sexual conflict is generated when selection on a shared trait differs between the sexes. This conflict can be partially or entirely resolved via the evolution of sex-specific genetic variation that allows each sex to approach, or possibly achieve, its optimum phenotype, thereby generating sexual dimorphism. However, shared genetic variation between the sexes can impose constraints on the independent expression of a shared trait in males and females, hindering the evolution of sexual dimorphism. Here, we examine genetic constraints on the evolution of sexual dimorphism in Drosophila melanogaster cuticular hydrocarbon (CHC) expression. We use the extended G matrix, which includes the between-sex genetic covariances that constitute the B matrix, to compare genetic constraints on two sets of CHC traits that differ in the extent of their sexual dimorphism. We find significant genetic constraints on the evolution of further dimorphism in the least dimorphic traits, but no such constraints for the most dimorphic traits. We also show that the genetic constraints on the least dimorphic CHCs are asymmetrical between the sexes. Our results suggest that there is evidence both for resolved and ongoing sexual conflict in D. melanogaster CHC profiles.

Keywords: B matrix; G matrix; cuticular hydrocarbons; intralocus sexual conflict; sexually antagonistic selection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Haplotypes / genetics
  • Hydrocarbons / metabolism
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sex Factors


  • Hydrocarbons