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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006 Feb 28;361(1466):235-59.

Sexual conflict over mating and fertilization: an overview.

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  • 1Population and Evolutionary Biology Research Group, School of Biological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3GS, UK.


Sexual conflict is a conflict between the evolutionary interests of individuals of the two sexes. The sexes can have different trait optima but this need not imply conflict if their optima can be attained simultaneously. Conflict requires an interaction between males and females (e.g. mating or parental care), such that the optimal outcomes for each sex cannot be achieved simultaneously. It is important to distinguish between battleground models, which define the parameter space for conflict and resolution models, which seek solutions for how conflicts are resolved. Overt behavioural conflict may or may not be manifest at resolution. Following Fisherian principles, an immediate (i.e. direct) benefit to a male that has a direct cost to his female partner can have an indirect benefit to the female via her male progeny. Female resistance to mating has been claimed to represent concurrence rather than conflict, due to female benefits via sons (males with low mating advantage are screened out by resistance). However, the weight of current evidence (both theoretical and empirical) supports sexual conflict for many cases. I review (i) conflicts over mate quality, encounters between males and females of genetically diverged subpopulations, mating rate and inbreeding, (ii) the special features of postcopulatory sexual conflict and (iii) some general features of importance for conflict resolution.

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