Mating preferences of selfish sex chromosomes


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I thank C. Veller for research assistance and comments on the manuscript. I am grateful to D. Haig, R. Trivers and J. Losos for comments on the manuscript, S. Otto, M. Nowak, M. Zuk, L. Hadany and J. Boyle for helpful discussions, and C. Noble for help with figure preparation. The simulations in this paper were run on the Odyssey cluster supported by the FAS Division of Science, Research Computing Group at Harvard University. I am supported by an NSF graduate research fellowship.

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Nature thanks Andrew Pomiankowski and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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  1. Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
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  3. Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA


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The author declares no competing interests.

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Correspondence to Pavitra Muralidhar.

Extended data figures and tables


  1. Frequencies of a W-linked, Z-linked and X-linked mutant P allele and an autosomal mutant T allele after 10 6 generations, each having started at 1% frequency, in Hardy-Weinberg and linkage equilibrium. The strength of the preference is α = 1.5 (top) or α = 5 (bottom). hT is the dominance of the T allele with respect to the wild-type t allele; hP is the dominance of the P allele with respect to the wild-type p allele. In the case of an X-linked preference, I assume that hP = hT; in the case of W-linked and Z-linked preferences, hP is not applicable, as both W- and Z-linked preferences are hemizygous in females. Note that in the case of a W-linked preference, the P allele will eventually attain high frequency in parameter regions in which it does not appear to do so here; for example, compare the results here for a W-linked preference of strength α = 1.5 with Fig. 1c, in which frequencies after 5 × 10 6 generations are reported.

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  3. Frequency trajectories of the W-linked P allele and an autosomal, male-costly female-beneficial T allele under two strengths of the preference. The heat maps displayed here are also shown in Fig. 1b (top) and Fig. 1d (bottom), and their details are described in the Methods. a, Sample trajectories of P and T alleles when the preference is weak and the cost of the trait to males is large. The P allele fixes but the T allele remains at a low-frequency mutation-selection balance: the equilibrium is one in which all females prefer males that display the costly trait, but very few males display it. b, Sample trajectories of P and T alleles when the preference is strong. The P allele fixes and the T allele attains a very high-frequency mutation-selection balance: the equilibrium is one in which almost all males have low viability, and all females strongly prefer the low-viability males.

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  5. Trajectories of the W-linked P allele, the autosomal, male-costly female-beneficial T allele and an autosomal S allele that suppresses the preference allele, across various fitness effects of the trait. The mutation rate at the trait locus is 10 −3 and the T allele is co-dominant ( hT = 1/2). In each simulation, at generation 0 the T and P alleles are introduced into the population. After 5 × 10 5 generations, a mutant S allele appears at an autosomal locus. The simulation is run for an additional 1.5 × 10 6 generations. Each allele is introduced at frequency 1%, in Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium if at a diploid locus, and in linkage equilibrium with respect to the other loci. The autosomal suppressor locus is unlinked to the trait locus, and the S allele is co-dominant ( hS = 1/2), so that a female bearing the P allele and a single S allele has preferences 1, ({alpha }_{i}^{1/4}) and ({alpha }_{i}^{1/2}) for tt, Tt and TT individuals, respectively, whereas a female with the P allele and no S allele has preferences 1, ({alpha }_{i}^{1/2}) and αi for tt, Tt and TT individuals. Suppression is more likely to evolve when the strength of the W-linked preference is weak, and the average fitness cost of the trait across males and females is high.

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  7. A weak preference allele P1 initially invades and fixes, which pushes the sexually antagonistic T allele ( sf = 0.01, sm = 0.1) to intermediate frequency. At 5 × 10 5 generations, a mutant allele that suppresses the action of P1 appears at an unlinked locus. The suppressor invades and fixes, which eliminates the effect of P1 so that the T allele decreases to a low frequency. At 2 × 10 6 generations, a medium-strength preference allele P2 invades and fixes, which pushes T back to a high frequency. An unlinked suppressor of P2 appears at 2.5 × 10 6 generations, but immediately goes extinct: the medium-strength preference is evolutionarily resistant to suppression.

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  9. Trajectories of the pseudo-autosomal mutant P allele and autosomal mutant T allele in a ZW system, for various strengths of the preference, fitness effects of the trait (always costly in males and beneficial in females) and recombination rates between the preference locus and the sex-determining locus. The mutant trait allele is co-dominant ( hT = 1/2). In each case, there is some (low) threshold recombination rate, below which the preference and trait can evolve to high frequency and above which they cannot.

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    This file contains supplementary information S1-S7 which includes Figures S1-S4 and Table S1.

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