Does polyandry control population sex ratio via regulation of a selfish gene?

Tom A.R. Price, Amanda Bretman, Ana C. Gradilla, Julia Reger, Michelle L. Taylor, Paulina Giraldo-Perez, Amy Campbell, Gregory D.D. Hurst, Nina Wedell*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

    29 Citations (Scopus)


    The extent of female multiple mating (polyandry) can strongly impact on the intensity of sexual selection, sexual conflict, and the evolution of cooperation and sociality. More subtly, polyandrymay protect populations against intragenomic conflicts that result from the invasion of deleterious selfish genetic elements (SGEs). SGEs commonly impair sperm production, and so are likely to be unsuccessful in sperm competition, potentially reducing their transmission in polyandrous populations. Here, we test this prediction in nature.We demonstrate a heritable latitudinal cline in the degree of polyandry in the fruitfly Drosophila pseudoobscura across the USA, with northern population females remating more frequently in both the field and the laboratory. High remating was associated with low frequency of a sex-ratio-distorting meiotic driver in natural populations. In the laboratory, polyandry directly controls the frequency of the driver by undermining its transmission. Hence we suggest that the cline in polyandry represents an important contributor to the cline in sex ratio in nature. Furthermore, as the meiotic driver causes sex ratio bias, variation in polyandry may ultimately determine population sex ratio across the USA, a dramatic impact of female mating decisions. As SGEs are ubiquitous it is likely that the reduction of intragenomic conflict by polyandry is widespread.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20133259
    JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
    Issue number1783
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2014


    • Geographical cline
    • Meiotic drive
    • Polyandry
    • Sex ratio distorter
    • Sexual selection
    • Sperm competition

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