Sexual Selection and Adaptation to Novel Environments

  • Date:
  • Location: Lindhalsalen, Norbyväagen 18, 75236, Uppsala
  • Doctoral student: Martinossi-Allibert, Ivain
  • About the dissertation
  • Organiser: Zooekologi
  • Contact person: Martinossi-Allibert, Ivain
  • Disputation

The work included in this thesis aims at exploring the environmental sensitivity of benefits and costs of sexual selection through a combined empirical and theoretical effort, to increase our understanding of the impact of environmental change on sexually reproducing populations.Can sexual selection promote adaptation to novel environments? Sexual selection for good genes should accelerate adaptation by granting higher reproductive success to individuals of high genetic quality. However, sexual conflict is a frequent outcome of sexual reproduction and may often be detrimental to population fitness. Experimental evolution has shown that the role of sexual selection in adaptation is variable, because of a complex balance between the detrimental and beneficial effects described above.The present thesis is investigating the role of sexual selection in adaptation by focusing on the sex-specific strength of selection and the intensity of intralocus sexual conflict (IaSC) in ancestral and novel environments. The sex-specific strength of selection is a valuable proxy for the benefits of sexual reproduction, since a male-bias in selection caused by sexual selection should allow efficient purging of deleterious alleles with little impact on female fecundity and cost to population fitness.This thesis investigates both sex-specific selection and IaSC across benign and novel environments in two species of seed beetles, Callosobruchus maculatus and Acanthoscelides obtectus, and includes a theoretical model of the effect of environmental change on of sexual selection. The empirical part of my results indicates that, generally, selection at the adult stage is male biased but that this male bias may be reduced under stress, pointing towards reduced benefits of sexual selection under rapid environmental change. Additional simulations suggest that the frequency dependent nature of sexual selection alone could explain this trend. No empirical support was found for the reduction of IaSC under stress.It is becoming crucial today to understand the impact of environmental change on natural populations. This thesis brings new material adding to our understanding of the role of sexual selection within that particular issue. The outcome of sexual selection is dependent on a variety of mechanisms, such as good genes processes and sexual conflict, which are very likely to be dependent on ecological factors and specificity of the system studied. For that reason, carefully controlled experiments on laboratory systems and mathematical modelling are necessary steps that should ultimately lead to the study of similar questions in natural systems.