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Reference: Rogers DW and Greig D (2009) Experimental evolution of a sexually selected display in yeast. Proc Biol Sci 276(1656):543-9

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Abstract

The fundamental principle underlying sexual selection theory is that an allele conferring an advantage in the competition for mates will spread through a population. Remarkably, this has never been demonstrated empirically. We have developed an experimental system using yeast for testing genetic models of sexual selection. Yeast signal to potential partners by producing an attractive pheromone; stronger signallers are preferred as mates. We tested the effect of high and low levels of sexual selection on the evolution of a gene determining the strength of this signal. Under high sexual selection, an allele encoding a stronger signal was able to invade a population of weak signallers, and we observed a corresponding increase in the amount of pheromone produced. By contrast, the strong signalling allele failed to invade under low sexual selection. Our results demonstrate, for the first time, the spread of a sexually selected allele through a population, confirming the central assumption of sexual selection theory. Our yeast system is a powerful tool for investigating the genetics of sexual selection.

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Journal Article
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Rogers DW, Greig D
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