Sexually antagonistic selection promotes genetic divergence between males and females in an ant. Academic Article uri icon


  • Genetic diversity acts as a reservoir for potential adaptations, yet selection tends to reduce this diversity over generations. However, sexually antagonistic selection (SAS) may promote diversity by selecting different alleles in each sex. SAS arises when an allele is beneficial to one sex but harmful to the other. Usually, the evolution of sex chromosomes allows each sex to independently reach different optima, thereby circumventing the constraint of a shared autosomal genome. Because the X chromosome is found twice as often in females than males, it represents a hot spot for SAS, offering a refuge for recessive male-beneficial but female-costly alleles. Hymenopteran species do not have sex chromosomes; females are diploid and males are haploid, with sex usually determined by heterozygosity at the complementary sex-determining locus. For this reason, their entire genomes display an X-linked pattern, as every chromosome is found twice as often in females than in males, which theoretically predisposes them to SAS in large parts of their genome. Here we report an instance of sexual divergence in the Hymenoptera, a sexually reproducing group that lacks sex chromosomes. In the invasive ant Nylanderia fulva, a postzygotic SAS leads daughters to preferentially carry alleles from their mothers and sons to preferentially carry alleles from their grandfathers for a substantial region (3%) of the genome. This mechanism results in nearly all females being heterozygous at these regions and maintains diversity throughout the population, which may mitigate the effects of a genetic bottleneck following introduction to an exotic area and enhance the invasion success of this ant.

published proceedings

  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

altmetric score

  • 44.05

author list (cited authors)

  • Eyer, P., Blumenfeld, A. J., & Vargo, E. L.

citation count

  • 19

complete list of authors

  • Eyer, Pierre-AndrĂ©||Blumenfeld, Alexander J||Vargo, Edward L

publication date

  • November 2019