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Antagonistic coevolution between the sexes in a group of insects


In coevolutionary ‘arms races’ between the sexes, the outcome of antagonistic interactions may remain at an evolutionary standstill. The advantage gained by one sex, with any evolutionary exaggeration of arms, is expected to be matched by analogous counteradaptations in the other sex1,2. This fundamental coevolutionary process may thus be hidden from the evolutionist's eye3,4, and no natural examples are known. We have studied the effects of male and female armament (clasping and anti-clasping morphologies) on the outcome of antagonistic mating interactions in 15 species of water strider, using a combination of experimental and phylogenetic comparative methods. Here we present, by assessing the independent effects of both species-specific level of arms escalation and small imbalances in the amounts of arms between the sexes within species, the consequences of a sexual arms race. Evolutionary change in the balance of armament between males and females, but not in the species-specific level of escalation, has resulted in evolutionary change in the outcome of sexually antagonistic interactions such as mating rate.

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Figure 1: Coevolution of arms in males and females.


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This study was supported by the Swedish Natural Science Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and the Magnus Bergvalls Stiftelse. We thank N. M. Andersen and J. Damgaard for phylogenetic information; J. Felsenstein and F. J. Rohlf for developing software; and T. Day, U. Friberg, D. Schluter and T. Tregenza for comments.

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Correspondence to Göran Arnqvist.

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Arnqvist, G., Rowe, L. Antagonistic coevolution between the sexes in a group of insects. Nature 415, 787–789 (2002).

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