Haploid selection, sex ratio bias, and transitions between sex-determining systems

Michael Francis Scott, Matthew Miles Osmond, Sarah Perin Otto

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Sex determination is remarkably dynamic; many taxa display shifts in the location of sex-determining loci or the evolution of entirely new sex-determining systems. Predominant theories for why we observe such transitions generally conclude that novel sex-determining systems are favoured by selection if they equalise the sex ratio or increase linkage with a locus that experiences different selection in males versus females. We use population genetic models to extend these theories in two ways: (1) We consider the dynamics of loci very tightly linked to the ancestral sex-determining loci, e.g., within the nonrecombining region of the ancestral sex chromosomes. Variation at such loci can favour the spread of new sex-determining systems in which the heterogametic sex changes (XY to ZW or ZW to XY) and the new sex-determining region is less closely linked (or even unlinked) to the locus under selection. (2) We consider selection upon haploid genotypes either during gametic competition (e.g., pollen competition) or meiosis (i.e., nonmendelian segregation), which can cause the zygotic sex ratio to become biased. Haploid selection can drive transitions between sex-determining systems without requiring selection to act differently in diploid males versus females. With haploid selection, we find that transitions between male and female heterogamety can evolve so that linkage with the sex-determining locus is either strengthened or weakened. Furthermore, we find that sex ratio biases may increase or decrease with the spread of new sex chromosomes, which implies that transitions between sex-determining systems cannot be simply predicted by selection to equalise the sex ratio. In fact, under many conditions, we find that transitions in sex determination are favoured equally strongly in cases in which the sex ratio bias increases or decreases. Overall, our models predict that sex determination systems should be highly dynamic, particularly when haploid selection is present, consistent with the evolutionary lability of this trait in many taxa.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2005609
JournalPLoS Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2018

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