, Volume 41, Issue 10, pp 1296-1310

Quantitative genetic models of sexual selection

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Quantitative genetic models of sexual selection have disporven some of the central tenets of both the handicap mechanism and the ‘sexy son’ hypothesis. These results suggest that the “good genes’ approach to sexual selection may generally lead to erroneous results.

Runaway sexual selection seems possible under a wide variety of circumstances. Quantittive genetic models have revealed runaway processes for sexually selected attributes expressed in both sexes and for attributes of parental care. Furthermore, the runaway could occur simultaneously in a series of populations that straddle an environmental gradient. While the models support the feasibility of runaway processes, empirical studies are needed to evaluate whether runaways actually happen. Estimates of critical genetic parameters are particularly needed, as well as measures of natural and sexual selection acting on the same population.

The models also show that sexual selection has tremendous potential to produce population differentiation, particularly in epigamic traits. Differentiation is promoted by indeterminancy of evolutionary outcome, transient differences among populations during the final slow approach to equilibrium, sampling drift among equilibrium populations, and the tendency of sexual selection to amplify geographic variation arising from spatial differences in natural selection. Recent work with two- and three-locus models of sexual selection has produced results that parallel the results of the polygenic models36–38,58. Thus the feature of indeterminate equilibria (outcome dependent on initial conditions) is common to both types of model.