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Male genes with nowhere to hide; sexual conflict in haplodiploids

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Conflicts of interest between male and females over reproduction and gene expression are thought to be widespread among animals. However, most research on sexual conflict focuses on diploid, bisexual organisms. It is not obvious that the role of sexual conflict is the same in diploids as in organisms with different reprodutive systems. Here, I consider the potential for evolutionary change through sexual conflict in haplodiploids. As very little sexual conflict theory has been developed specifically for haplodiploids, I rely on the analogy between haplodiploid reproduction and X-chromosomal inheritance. The main conclusions are that the opportunity for between-locus sexual conflict should be the same for haplodiploids as for diploids, provided that the sexually antagonistic alleles involved are sex-limited from when they first appear. Empirical data testing this hypothesis are almost non-existent. The dynamics of within-locus sexual conflict are likely to differ strongly between haplodiploid and autosomal diploid genes depending on the dominance interactions between male and female alleles. In general, it is expected that this type of conflict will often be resolved in favour of females in haplodiploids. A number of factors, such as genomic imprinting and lack of recombination between male and female genomes may prevent this outcome.

Affiliations: 1: Animal Ecology, Institute of Biology Leiden, Leiden University, PO Box 9516, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands


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