Research NewsEvolutionary Biology

Flies Unmask Evolutionary Warfare Between the Sexes

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Science  17 May 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5264, pp. 953-954
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5264.953


According to an ingenious new experiment, behind the act of making love lies evolutionary war—at least in fruit flies. By blocking female flies' evolution while allowing males to evolve, researchers revealed a coevolutionary struggle waged through compounds in seminal fluid and in the female's reproductive tract. In the experiment, highly evolved “supermale” flies fathered more offspring, but their evolutionarily “stuck” female partners died young, apparently because of toxins in the males' seminal fluid. The work provides experimental evidence for sociobiological theory and also has implications for how new species are formed.

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