The role of ecology, neutral processes and antagonistic coevolution in an apparent sexual arms race
Perry J., Rowe L., Garroway C.
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.