Macroevolutionary consequences of sexual conflict

Biol Lett. 2018 Jun;14(6):20180186. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2018.0186.


Intralocus sexual conflicts arise whenever the fitness optima for a trait expressed in both males and females differ between the sexes and shared genetic architecture constrains the sexes from evolving independently towards their respective optima. Such sexual conflicts are commonplace in nature, yet their long-term evolutionary consequences remain unexplored. Using a Bayesian phylogenetic comparative framework, we studied the macroevolutionary dynamics of intersexual trait integration in stalk-eyed flies (Diopsidae) spanning a time frame of more than 25 Myr. We report that increased intensity of sexual selection on male eyestalks is associated with reduced intersexual eyestalk integration, as well as sex-specific rates of eyestalk evolution. Despite this, lineages where males have been under strong sexual selection for millions of years still exhibit high levels of intersexual trait integration. This low level of decoupling between the sexes may indicate that exaggerated female eyestalks are in fact adaptive-or alternatively, that there are strong constraints on reducing trait integration between the sexes. Future work should seek to clarify the relative roles of constraints and selection in contributing to the varying levels of intersexual trait integration in stalk-eyed flies, and in this way clarify whether sexual conflicts can act as constraints on adaptive evolution even on macroevolutionary time scales.

Keywords: constraints; macroevolution; phylogenetic comparative methods; sexual conflict; trait integration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Diptera / anatomy & histology
  • Diptera / classification*
  • Eye / anatomy & histology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Phylogeny
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Sex Characteristics*

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4108277