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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006 Feb 28;361(1466):277-85.

Detecting sexual conflict and sexually antagonistic coevolution.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G5, Canada. lrowe@zoo.utoronto.ca


We begin by providing an operational definition of sexual conflict that applies to both inter- and intralocus conflict. Using this definition, we examine a series of simple coevolutionary models to elucidate fruitful approaches for detecting interlocus sexual conflict and resultant sexually antagonistic coevolution. We then use published empirical examples to illustrate the utility of these approaches. Three relevant attributes emerge. First, the dynamics of sexually antagonistic coevolution may obscure the conflict itself. Second, competing models of inter-sexual coevolution may yield similar population patterns near equilibria. Third, a variety of evolutionary forces underlying competing models may be acting simultaneously near equilibria. One main conclusion is that studies of emergent patterns in extant populations (e.g. studies of population and/or female fitness) are unlikely to allow us to distinguish among competing coevolutionary models. Instead, we need more research aimed at identifying the forces of selection acting on shared traits and sexually antagonistic traits. More specifically, we need a greater number of functional studies of female traits as well as studies of the consequences of both male and female traits for female fitness. A mix of selection and manipulative studies on these is likely the most promising route.

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