Evolutionary conflicts of interest between males and females

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Sexual conflict arises from differences in the evolutionary interests of males and females and can occur over traits related to courtship, mating and fertilisation through to parental investment. Theory shows that sexual conflict can lead to sexually antagonistic coevolution (SAC), where adaptation in one sex can lead to counter-adaptation in the other. Thus, sexual conflict can lead to evolutionary change within species. In addition, SAC can — through its effects on traits related to the probability of mating and of zygote formation — potentially lead to reproductive isolation. In this review, I discuss that, although sexual conflict is ubiquitous, the actual expression of sexual conflict leading to SAC is less frequent. The balance between the benefits and costs of the manipulation of one sex by the other, and the availability of mechanisms by which conflict is expressed, determine whether actual sexual conflict is likely to occur. New insights address the relationship between sexual conflict and conflict resolution, adaptation, sexual selection and fitness. I suggest that it will be useful to examine systematically the parallels and contrasts between sexual and other evolutionary conflicts. Understanding why some traits, but not others, are subject to evolutionary change by SAC will require data on the mechanisms of the traits involved and on the relative benefits and costs of manipulation and resistance to manipulation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R744-R754
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sep 2006

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