Theoretical work predicts that sexual selection can enhance natural selection, increasing the rate of adaptation to new environments and helping purge harmful mutations. While some experiments support these predictions, remarkably little work has addressed the role of sexual selection on compensatory adaptation—populations’ ability to compensate for the costs of deleterious alleles that are already present. We tested whether sexual selection, as well as the degree of standing genetic variation, affect the rate of compensatory evolution via phenotypic suppression in experimental populations of
Drosophila melanogaster. These populations were fixed for a spontaneous mutation causing mild abnormalities in the male sex comb, a structure important for mating success. We fine-mapped this mutation to an ∼85 kb region on the X chromosome containing three candidate genes, showed that the mutation is deleterious, and that its phenotypic expression and penetrance vary by genetic background. We then performed experimental evolution, including a treatment where opportunity for mate choice was limited by experimentally enforced monogamy. Although evolved populations did show some phenotypic suppression of the morphological abnormalities in the sex comb, the amount of suppression did not depend on the opportunity for sexual selection. Sexual selection, therefore, may not always enhance natural selection; instead, the interaction between these two forces may depend on additional factors.