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Consequences of strongly blased sex ratios for evolution and ecology


The sex ratio is a key factor in the evolution of male and female reproductive function. First, the serration determines the strength of selection that mate competition and mate choice impose on sexual characters, such as testes size, ejaculate size and the production of accessory gland peptides inhales or the rate of mating and egg production in females. Second, the sex ratio determines the effective size of the population under selection. Biased sex ratios lower the effective population size, thereby increasing the force of genetic drift and constraining adaptive evolution. The present project aims to investigate the evolution of male and female sexual characters under strongly female-biased sex ratios. Strong female bias occurs naturally in a number of systems through the action of selfish genetic elements. An experimental evolution approach using Drosophilamelanogaster will be employed to study change in reproductive characters associated with biased population sex ratio. Treatments manipulating the sex ratio while controlling either the numerical or the effective population size will be performed to disentangle the effect of selection imposed by the serration from the effect of effective population size in constraining adaptive evolution. The project proposed will provide genuine scientific advance by combining evolutionary biology, quantitative genetics and behavioural ecology in examining the design and function of different aspects of reproductive biology. Besides the direct scientific merits, the fellowship will allow to complete the applicant\'s training by providing experience with the Drosophilae system, one of the most important animal models in molecular and organism biology. Further, transactional mobility of the applicant to the host institution UCL will guarantee knowledge transfer and networking within the EU.

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