Evolutionary inevitability of sexual antagonism

Tim Connallon, Andrew G. Clark


Sexual antagonism, whereby mutations are favourable in one sex and disfavourable in the other, is common in natural populations, yet the root causes of sexual antagonism are rarely considered in evolutionary theories of adaptation. Here, we explore the evolutionary consequences of sex-differential selection and genotype-by-sex interactions for adaptation in species with separate sexes. We show that sexual antagonism emerges naturally from sex differences in the direction of selection on phenotypes expressed by both sexes or from sex-by-genotype interactions affecting the expression of such phenotypes. Moreover, modest sex differences in selection or genotype-by-sex effects profoundly influence the long-term evolutionary trajectories of populations with separate sexes, as these conditions trigger the evolution of strong sexual antagonism as a by-product of adaptively driven evolutionary change. The theory demonstrates that sexual antagonism is an inescapable by-product of adaptation in species with separate sexes, whether or not selection favours evolutionary divergence between males and females.

  • Received August 14, 2013.
  • Accepted November 20, 2013.
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