Selection on an antagonistic behavioral trait can drive rapid genital coevolution in the burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides

Paul E. Hopwood, Megan L. Head, Eleanor J. Jordan, Mauricio J. Carter, Emma Davey, Allen J. Moore, Nick J. Royle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Male and female genital morphology varies widely across many taxa, and even among populations. Disentangling potential sources of selection on genital morphology is problematic because each sex is predicted to respond to adaptations in the other due to reproductive conflicts of interest. To test how variation in this sexual conflict trait relates to variation in genital morphology we used our previously developed artificial selection lines for high and low repeated mating rates. We selected for high and low repeated mating rates using monogamous pairings to eliminate contemporaneous female choice and male-male competition. Male and female genital shape responded rapidly to selection on repeated mating rate. High and low mating rate lines diverged from control lines after only 10 generations of selection. We also detected significant patterns of male and female genital shape coevolution among selection regimes. We argue that because our selection lines differ in sexual conflict, these results support the hypothesis that sexually antagonistic coevolution can drive the rapid divergence of genital morphology. The greatest divergence in morphology corresponded with lines in which the resolution of sexual conflict over mating rate was biased in favor of male interests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1180-1188
Number of pages9
JournalEvolution; international journal of organic evolution
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • Artificial selection
  • burying beetle
  • genital morphology
  • repeated mating
  • sexual conflict
  • sexual selection
  • sexually antagonistic coevolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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