Inclusive fitness and sexual conflict: how population structure can modulate the battle of the sexes

Bioessays. 2015 Feb;37(2):155-66. doi: 10.1002/bies.201400130. Epub 2014 Nov 12.


Competition over reproductive opportunities among members of one sex often harms the opposite sex, creating a conflict of interest between individual males and females. Recently, this battle of the sexes has become a paradigm in the study of intersexual coevolution. Here, we review recent theoretical and empirical advances suggesting that - as in any scenario of intraspecific competition - selfishness (competitiveness) can be influenced by the genetic relatedness of competitors. When competitors are positively related (e.g. siblings), an individual may refrain from harming its competitor(s) and their mate(s) because this can improve the focal individual's inclusive fitness. These findings reveal that population genetic structure might be of paramount importance when studying the battle of the sexes. We conclude by identifying some new lines of research at the interface of sexual selection and social evolution.

Keywords: cooperation; kin selection; sexual conflict; sexual selection; social evolution; tragedy of the commons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Male
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*