Genetic correlations and sex-specific adaptation in changing environments

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42 Citations (Scopus)


Females and males have conflicting evolutionary interests. Selection favors the evolution of different phenotypes within each sex, yet divergence between the sexes is constrained by the shared genetic basis of female and male traits. Current theory predicts that such “sexual antagonism” should be common: manifesting rapidly during the process of adaptation, and slow in its resolution. However, these predictions apply in temporally stable environments. Environmental change has been shown empirically to realign the direction of selection acting on shared traits and thereby alleviate signals of sexually antagonistic selection. Yet there remains no theory for how common sexual antagonism should be in changing environments. Here, we analyze models of sex-specific evolutionary divergence under directional and cyclic environmental change, and consider the impact of genetic correlations on long-run patterns of sex-specific adaptation. We find that environmental change often aligns directional selection between the sexes, even when they have divergent phenotypic optima. Nevertheless, some forms of environmental change generate persistent sexually antagonistic selection that is difficult to resolve. Our results reinforce recent empirical observations that changing environmental conditions alleviate conflict between males and females. They also generate new predictions regarding the scope for sexually antagonistic selection and its resolution in changing environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2186-2198
Number of pages13
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Adaptation
  • fitness
  • models/simulations
  • sex
  • sexual conflict
  • trade-offs

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