Antagonistic pleiotropy in species with separate sexes, and the maintenance of genetic variation in life-history traits and fitness

Felix Zajitschek, Tim Connallon

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Antagonistic pleiotropy (AP)—where alleles of a gene increase some components of fitness at a cost to others—can generate balancing selection, and contribute to the maintenance of genetic variation in fitness traits, such as survival, fecundity, fertility, and mate competition. Previous theory suggests that AP is unlikely to maintain variation unless antagonistic selection is strong, or AP alleles exhibit pronounced differences in genetic dominance between the affected traits. We show that conditions for balancing selection under AP expand under the likely scenario that the strength of selection on each fitness component differs between the sexes. Our model also predicts that the vast majority of balanced polymorphisms have sexually antagonistic effects on total fitness, despite the absence of sexual antagonism for individual fitness components. We conclude that AP polymorphisms are less difficult to maintain than predicted by prior theory, even under our conservative assumption that selection on components of fitness is universally sexually concordant. We discuss implications for the maintenance of genetic variation, and for inferences of sexual antagonism that are based on sex-specific phenotypic selection estimates—many of which are based on single fitness components.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1306-1316
Number of pages11
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • Genetic trade-off
  • intralocus sexual conflict
  • maintenance of polymorphism
  • sex-specific selection
  • sexual dimorphism

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