Linking local adaptation with the evolution of sex differences

Timothy Connallon, Florence Débarre, Xiang-Yi Li

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Many conspicuous forms of evolutionary diversity occur within species. Two prominent examples include evolutionary divergence between populations differentially adapted to their local environments (local adaptation), and divergence between females and males in response to sex differences in selection (sexual dimorphism sensu lato). These two forms of diversity have inspired vibrant research programmes, yet these fields have largely developed in isolation from one another. Nevertheless, conceptual parallels between these research traditions are striking. Opportunities for local adaptation strike a balance between local selection, which promotes divergence, and gene flow—via dispersal and interbreeding between populations—which constrains it. Sex differences are similarly constrained by fundamental features of inheritance that mimic gene flow. Offspring of each sex inherit genes from same-sex and opposite-sex parents, leading to gene flow between each differentially selected half of the population, and raising the question of how sex differences arise and are maintained. This special issue synthesizes and extends emerging research at the interface between the research traditions of local adaptation and sex differences. Each field can promote understanding of the other, and interactions between local adaptation and sex differences can generate new empirical predictions about the evolutionary consequences of selection that varies across space, time, and between the sexes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20170414
Number of pages9
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1757
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2018


  • sexual dimorphism
  • evolutionary constraints
  • gene flow
  • sexual selection
  • natural selection
  • sexual conflict

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