Sexual conflict: Mechanisms and emerging themes in resistance biology

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Sexual conflict is acknowledged as pervasive, with the potential to generate and maintain genetic variation. Mechanistic studies of conflict have been important in providing direct evidence for the existence of sexual conflict. They have also led to the growing realization that there is a striking phenotypic diversity of adaptations whose evolution can be shaped by sexually antagonistic selection. The mechanisms involved range from the use of genital spines, claspers, songs, and smells to ejaculate molecules. In one well-studied example, sexual conflict can occur over the sexually antagonistic effects of seminal fluid proteins in Drosophila melanogaster. However, an important puzzle remains, namely, why seminal fluid proteins are so numerous and complex, hence whether all or some are involved in mediating sexual conflict. I hypothesize that this rich diversity and the complexity of traits subject to sexually antagonistic selection in general may arise, at least in part, due to the deployment of sexually antagonistic adaptations in males in a way that lessens the probability of broadscale, strong resistance evolution in females. In elaborating this hypothesis, I explore how research into the evolution of resistance to insecticides, antimicrobials, and vaccines might be used to provide insights into the evolution of female resistance to the effects of sexually antagonistic manipulative traits of males. In this manner, the manipulative traits of males can be resistance-proofed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-229
Number of pages13
JournalThe American Naturalist
Issue number2
Early online date24 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • sexually antagonistic selection
  • resistance strategies
  • resistance management
  • insecticide
  • antimicrobial

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