SICB 2014: Between-Sex Genetic Correlations

Although sexual dimorphism is found in many animal species, the mechanisms by which it evolves remains a hot topic. Selection may favor different phenotypes in the two sexes, but sharing a genome may put constraints on if and how sexual dimorphism might evolve. Many anoles have sexual dimorphism, of course, but the degree to which they are dimorphic varies quite dramatically. Robert Cox studied how between-sex genetic correlations in Anolis sagrei, a very dimorphic species, might degrade over ontogeny to result in divergent male and female phenotypes.

Anolis sagrei displays marked sexual dimorphism. (photo from Bob Cox’s website)

Using a large breeding colony of brown anoles from the Bahamas, Cox found that between-sex genetic correlations were lowest for traits that are the most dimorphic, like body size. Even more interestingly, the correlations change as the individuals get older. Whereas juvenile anoles have high between-sex genetic correlations for most traits, those correlations decrease around sexual maturation, most strongly in those traits that are dimorphic. This suggests that the pronounced divergence in phenotype seen in adults is associated with a degradation of the between-sex genetic correlations for those traits. Cox is currently exploring what mechanisms lead to this degradation, and is especially interested in whether testosterone is a major player.

About Jerry Husak

I am an Assistant Professor at the Univeresity of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. My research focuses on understanding how the processes of natural and sexual selection shape physiological and morphological traits. I study anoles to understand how endocrine systems evolve to modulate social behavior.

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