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Am Nat. 2005 May;165(5):567-76. Epub 2005 Mar 14.

Female polymorphism, frequency dependence, and rapid evolutionary dynamics in natural populations.

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  • 1Section for Animal Ecology, Ecology Building, Lund University, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden.


Rapid evolutionary change over a few generations has been documented in natural populations. Such changes are observed as organisms invade new environments, and they are often triggered by changed interspecific interactions, such as differences in predation regimes. However, in spite of increased recognition of antagonistic male-female mating interactions, there is very limited evidence that such intraspecific interactions could cause rapid evolutionary dynamics in nature. This is because ecological and longitudinal data from natural populations have been lacking. Here we show that in a color-polymorphic damselfly species, male-female mating interactions lead to rapid evolutionary change in morph frequencies between generations. Field data and computer simulations indicate that these changes are driven by sexual conflict, in which morph fecundities are negatively affected by frequency- and density-dependent male mating harassment. These frequency-dependent processes prevent population divergence by maintaining a female polymorphism in most populations. Although these results contrast with the traditional view of how sexual conflict enhances the rate of population divergence, they are consistent with a recent theoretical model of how females may form discrete genetic clusters in response to male mating harassment.

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