Publications filtered by: Sexual conflict
In many species, females exposed to increased sexual activity experience reductions in longevity. Here, in Drosophila melanogaster, we report an additional effect on females brought about by sexual interactions; an effect that spans generations. We subjected females to a sexual treatment consisting of different levels of sexual activity, and then investigated patterns of mortality in their offspring. We found reduced probabilities of survival, increases in the rate-of-senescence, and a pattern of reduced mean longevities, for offspring produced by mothers that experienced higher levels of sexual interaction. We contend that these effects constitute trans-generational costs of sexual conflict – the existence or implications of which have rarely been considered previously. Our results indicate that ongoing exposure by mothers to male pre-copulatory interactions is itself sufficient to drive trans-generational effects on offspring mortality. Thus, we show that increases in maternal sexual activity can produce trans-generational effects that permeate through to latter life-stages in the offspring. This helps to elucidate the complex interplay between sex and ageing, and provides new insights into the dynamics of adaptation under sexual selection.
While model systems are useful in entomology, allowing generalizations to be made based on a few well-known species, they also have drawbacks. It can be difficult to know how far to generalize from information in a few species: are all flies like Drosophila? The use of model systems is particularly problematic in studying sexual selection, where variability among taxa is key to the evolution of different behaviors. A bias toward use of a few insect species, particularly Drosophila, is evident in the sexual selection and sexual conflict literature over the last several decades, although the diversity of study organisms has increased more recently. As the number of model systems used to study sexual conflict increased, support for the idea that sexual interactions resulted in harm to females decreased. Future work should choose model systems thoughtfully, combining well-known species with those that can add to the variation that allows us to make more meaningful generalizations.