Function, Developmental Genetics, and Fitness Consequences of a Sexually Antagonistic Trait

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Science  04 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6081, pp. 585-589
DOI: 10.1126/science.1217258

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Sexual conflict is thought to be a potent force driving the evolution of sexually dimorphic traits. In the water strider Rheumatobates rileyi, we show that elaborated traits on male antennae function to grasp resistant females during premating struggles. Using RNA interference, we uncovered novel roles of the gene distal-less (dll) in generating these male-specific traits. Furthermore, graded reduction of the grasping traits resulted in a graded reduction of mating success in males, thus demonstrating both selection for elaboration of the traits and the role of dll in their evolution. By establishing developmental genetic tools in model systems where sexual selection and conflict are understood, we can begin to reveal how selection can exploit ancient developmental genes to enable the evolution of sexually dimorphic traits.

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