Artificial selection on sexual aggression: Correlated traits and possible trade‐offs Academic Article uri icon

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  • Forced copulation is an extreme form of sexual aggression that can affect the evolution of sex-specific anatomy, morphology, and behavior. To characterize mechanistic and evolutionary aspects of forced copulation, we artificially selected male fruit flies based on their ability to succeed in the naturally prevalent behavior of forced matings with newly eclosed (teneral) females. The low and high forced copulation lineages showed rapid divergence, with the high lineages ultimately showing twice the rates of forced copulation as the low lineages. While males from the high lineages spent more time aggressively pursuing and mounting teneral females, their behavior toward non-teneral and heterospecific females was similar to that of males from the low lineages. Males from the low and high lineages also showed similar levels of male-male aggression. This suggests little or no genetic correlations between sexual aggression and non-aggressive pursuit of females, and between male aggression toward females and males. Surprisingly however, males from the high lineages had twice as high mating success than males from the low lineages when allowed to compete for consensual mating with mature females. In further experiments, we found no evidence for trade-offs associated with high forced mating rates: males from the high lineages did not have lower longevity than males from the low lineages when housed with females, and four generations of relaxed selection did not lead to convergence in forced mating rates. Our data indicate complex interactions among forced copulation success and consensual mating behavior, which we hope to clarify in future genomic work.


  • Dukas, Reuven
  • Yan, Janice L
  • Scott, Andrew M
  • Sivaratnam, Surabhi
  • Baxter, Carling M

publication date

  • June 2020