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Microevolutionary studies have demonstrated sexually antagonistic selection on sexual traits, and existing evidence supports a macroevolutionary pattern of sexually antagonistic coevolution. Two current questions are how antagonistic selection within-populations scales to divergence among populations, and to what extent intraspecific divergence matches species-level patterns. To address these questions, we conducted an intraspecific comparative study of sexual armaments and mating behaviors in a water strider (Gerris incognitus) in which male genitals grasp resistant females and female abdominal structures help ward off males. The degree of exaggeration of these armaments coevolves across species. We found a similar strong pattern of antagonistic coevolution among populations, suggesting that sexual conflict drives population differentiation in morphology. Furthermore, relative exaggeration in armaments was closely related to mating outcomes in a common environment. Interestingly, the effect of armaments on mating was mediated by population sexual size dimorphism. When females had a large size advantage, mating activity was low and independent of armaments, but when males had a relative size advantage, mating activity depended on which sex had relatively exaggerated armaments. Thus, a strong signal of sexually antagonistic coevolution is apparent even among populations. These results open opportunities to understand links between sexual arms races, ecological variation, and reproductive isolation.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





544 - 557


Animals, Biological Evolution, Body Size, Canada, Female, Heteroptera, Male, Sexual Behavior, Animal