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Sexual conflict, senescence and the evolution of female resistance


Understanding ageing is one of the major challenges in biology. The main theory for the evolution of aging holds that genes with beneficial effects early in life become established despite mildly deleterious effects later in life. We suggest that sexual conflict may contribute to the evolution of senescence. It has very recently been suggested that sexual conflict and sex-specific antagonistically apheliotropic genes might play such a role, and this novel idea integrates the classical models for the evolution of ageing with recent conceptual advances in evolutionary biology. Recent evidence supporting the view that male and female genomes are in conflict has now revolutionized the way in which we interpret interactions between sexes, and suggests that sexual conflict is a potent force in male-female antagonistic convolution The core of our suggestion is that antagonistic adaptations in males (e.g. seminal fluid gonadotropins) may elevate female reproductive rate early in life above the optimal reproductive rate for females, thus accelerating the rate of senescence in females. Male potential to harm females is predicted to evolve according to differences in female life histories. We suggest testing these novel ideas using reciprocal crosses between replicated lines of the bean weevil Acanthoscelidesobtectus selected for over 100 generations for either early or late reproduction. Males of this species transfer a suite of different proteins to females at mating, some of which are known to elevate female egg production whereas others have toxic effects on females. These lines offer an ideal and unique opportunity to study the evolutionary interaction between female life history adaptations and antagonistic adaptations in males allowing us to assess the importance of sexual conflict for female senescence.

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Funding Scheme

EIF - Marie Curie actions-Intra-European Fellowships


St Olofsgatan, 10B