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PLoS Biol. 2006 Nov;4(11):e356.

Intralocus sexual conflict diminishes the benefits of sexual selection.

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Department of Biology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.


Evolution based on the benefits of acquiring "good genes" in sexual selection is only plausible with the reliable transmission of genetic quality from one generation to the next. Accumulating evidence suggests that sexually antagonistic (SA) genes with opposite effects on Darwinian fitness when expressed in the two different sexes may be common in animals and plants. These SA genes should weaken the potential indirect genetic benefits of sexual selection by reducing the fitness of opposite-sex progeny from high-fitness parents. Here we use hemiclonal analysis in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to directly measure the inheritance of fitness across generations, over the entire genome. We show that any potential genetic benefits of sexual selection in this system are not merely weakened, but completely reversed over one generation because high-fitness males produce low-fitness daughters and high-fitness mothers produce low-fitness sons. Moreover, male fitness was not inherited by sons, consistent with both theory and recent evidence connecting this form of SA variation with the X chromosome. This inheritance pattern may help to explain how genetic variation for fitness is sustained despite strong sexual selection, and why the ZW sex chromosome system found in birds and butterflies appears to foster the evolution of extreme secondary sexual characters in males.

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