Male-benefit sexually antagonistic genotypes show elevated vulnerability to inbreeding

Karl Grieshop, David Berger, Göran Arnqvist

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: There is theoretical and empirical evidence for strong sexual selection in males having positive effects on population viability by serving to purify the genome of its mutation load at a low demographic cost. However, there is also theoretical and empirical evidence for negative effects of sexual selection on female fitness, and therefore population viability, known as the gender load. This can take the form of sexually antagonistic (SA) genetic variation where alleles with a selective advantage in males pose a detriment to female fitness, and vice versa. Here, using seed beetles, we shed light on a previously unexplored manifestation of the gender load: the effect of SA genetic variation on tolerance to inbreeding. Results: We found that genotypes encoding high male, but low female fitness exhibited significantly greater rates of extinction upon enforced inbreeding relative to genotypes encoding high female but low male fitness. Also, genotypes encoding low fitness in both sexes exhibited greater rates of extinction relative to generally high-fitness genotypes (though marginally non-significant), an expected finding attributable to variation in mutation load across genotypes. Despite follow-up investigations aiming to identify the mechanism(s) underlying these findings, it remains unclear whether the gender load and the mutation load have independent consequences for tolerance to inbreeding, or whether these two types of genetic architecture interact epistatically to render male-benefit genetic variation relatively intolerant to inbreeding. Conclusions: Regardless of the underlying mechanism(s), our results show that male-benefit/female-detriment SA genetic variation poses a previously unseen detriment to population viability due to its elevated vulnerability to inbreeding/homozygosity. This suggests that sexual selection in the context of SA genetic variance for fitness may enhance the gender load on population viability more than previously appreciated, due to selecting for male-benefit SA genetic variation that engenders lineages to extinction upon inbreeding. We note that our results imply that SA alleles that are sexually selected for in males may be underrepresented or even lacking in panels of inbred lines.

Original languageEnglish
Article number134
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2017


  • Antagonistic pleiotropy
  • Balancing selection
  • Fitness
  • Genetic variation
  • Inbreeding depression
  • Intralocus sexual conflict
  • Mutation load
  • Sexually antagonistic selection

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