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Some of the strongest examples of a sexual 'arms race' come from observations of correlated evolution in sexually antagonistic traits among populations. However, it remains unclear whether these cases truly represent sexually antagonistic coevolution; alternatively, ecological or neutral processes might also drive correlated evolution. To investigate these alternatives, we evaluated the contributions of intersex genetic correlations, ecological context, neutral genetic divergence and sexual coevolution in the correlated evolution of antagonistic traits among populations of Gerris incognitus water striders. We could not detect intersex genetic correlations for these sexually antagonistic traits. Ecological variation was related to population variation in the key female antagonistic trait (spine length, a defence against males), as well as body size. Nevertheless, population covariation between sexually antagonistic traits remained substantial and significant even after accounting for all of these processes. Our results therefore provide strong evidence for a contemporary sexual arms race.

Original publication




Journal article


Ecol Lett

Publication Date





1107 - 1117


Arms race, Gerridae, genetic structure, intersex genetic correlation, neutral divergence, population variation, sexual conflict, sexually antagonistic coevolution, spatial structure, water striders, Animals, Biological Evolution, Body Size, Ecology, Female, Male, Mating Preference, Animal, Selection, Genetic, Sexual Behavior, Animal