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Int J Evol Biol. 2011;2011:908735. doi: 10.4061/2011/908735. Epub 2011 May 25.

The molecular evolution of animal reproductive tract proteins: what have we learned from mating-system comparisons?

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  • 1Department of Biology, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1S 5B6.


Postcopulatory sexual selection is thought to drive the rapid evolution of reproductive tract genes in many animals. Recently, a number of studies have sought to test this hypothesis by examining the effects of mating system variation on the evolutionary rates of reproductive tract genes. Perhaps surprisingly, there is relatively little evidence that reproductive proteins evolve more rapidly in species subject to strong postcopulatory sexual selection. This emerging trend may suggest that other processes, such as host-pathogen interactions, are the main engines of rapid reproductive gene evolution. I suggest that such a conclusion is as yet unwarranted; instead, I propose that more rigorous analytical techniques, as well as multigene and population-based approaches, are required for a full understanding of the consequences of mating system variation for the evolution of reproductive tract genes.

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