Intralocus sexual conflict occurs when males and females experience sex-specific selection on a shared genome. With several notable exceptions, intralocus sexual conflict has been investigated in constant environments to which the study organisms have had an opportunity to adapt. However, a change in the environment can result in differential or even opposing selection pressures on males and females, creating sexual conflict. We used experimental evolution to explore the interaction between intralocus sexual conflict, sexual dimorphism and environmental variation in Drosophila melanogaster. Six populations were selected for adult desiccation resistance (D), with six matched control populations maintained in parallel (C). After 46 generations, the D populations had increased in survival time under arid conditions by 68% and in body weight by 20% compared to the C populations. The increase in size was the result of both extended development and faster growth rate of D juveniles. Adaptation to the stress came at a cost in terms of preadult viability and female fecundity. Because males are innately less tolerant of desiccation stress, very few D males survived desiccation-selection; while potentially a windfall for survivors, these conditions mean that most males’ fitness was determined posthumously. We conjectured that selection for early maturation and mating in males was in conflict with selection for survival and later reproduction in females. Consistent with this prediction, the sexes showed different patterns of age-specific desiccation resistance and resource acquisition, and there was a trend towards increasingly female-biased sexual size dimorphism. However, levels of desiccation resistance were unaffected, with D males and females increasing in parallel. Either there is a strong positive genetic correlation between the sexes that limits independent evolution of desiccation resistance, or fitness pay-offs from the strategy of riding out the stress bout are great enough to sustain concordant selection on the two sexes. We discuss the forces that mould fitness in males under a regimen where trade-offs between survival and reproduction may be considerable.
Volume 100, 2021
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