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Evolution. 2000 Feb;54(1):37-43.

Sex-limited mutations and the evolution of sexual dimorphism.

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  • 1Section of Integrative Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Texas, Austin 78712, USA.


Although the developmental and genetic mechanisms underlying sex differences are being elucidated in great detail in a number of species, there remains a breach between proximate and evolutionary studies of sexual dimorphism. More precisely, the evolution of sex-limited gene expression at autosomal loci has not been well reasoned using either theoretical or empirical methods. Here, I show that a Mendelian genetic model including elementary details of sexual differentiation provides novel insight into the evolution of sex differences via sex limitation. This model indicates that the nature of allelic effects and the pattern of selection must be known in both sexes to predict the evolution of sex differences. That is, selection interacts with genetic variation for sexual dimorphism to produce unanticipated patterns of trait divergence or convergence between the sexes. Ultimately, this model may explain why previous models for the evolution of sexual dimorphism do not predict the erratic behavior of the sex difference during artificial selection experiments.

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