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J Evol Biol. 2011 Sep;24(9):2064-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2011.02317.x. Epub 2011 Jun 2.

The opportunity for sexual selection: not mismeasured, just misunderstood.

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Department of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Evolutionary biologists have developed several indices, such as selection gradients (β) and the opportunity for sexual selection (I(s) ), to quantify the actual and/or potential strength of sexual selection acting in natural or experimental populations. In a recent paper, Klug et al. (J. Evol. Biol.23, 2010, 447) contend that selection gradients are the only legitimate metric for quantifying sexual selection. They argue that I(s) and similar mating-system-based metrics provide unpredictable results, which may be uncorrelated with selection acting on a trait, and should therefore be abandoned. We find this view short-sighted and argue that the choice of metric should be governed by the research question at hand. We describe insights that measures such as the opportunity for selection can provide and also argue that Klug et al. have overstated the problems with this approach while glossing over similar issues with the interpretation of selection gradients. While no metric perfectly characterizes sexual selection in all circumstances, thoughtful application of existing measures has been and continues to be informative in evolutionary studies.

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