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Intralocus sexual conflict in a hermaphrodite

In this project, I will investigate what happens when a hermaphrodite experiences sex-limited selection on a synthetic sex chromosome. My study species will be Macrostomum lignano, a free-living, obligate outcrossing, hermaphroditic flatworm. This species has had the gene for green fluorescent protein (GFP) introgressed into its genome. By using the GFP locus as a marker, it can essentially become a sex-determining gene. This will result in the build up of a genetic correlation between the GFP colour marker and sex-specific fitness loci. The experimental design is inspired by studies carried out in insects, where experimental evolution has been used to build-up a genetic correlation between a colour marker locus and a trait of interest. I will have three experimental treatments, each with several replicate populations: one “male” treatment, where marked worms only pass on their genetic material through sperm, one “female” treatment, where marked worms only pass on their genetic material through eggs, and one control. In the “male” and “female” treatments this will create very strong selection to invest in the appropriate sex function, and sex-specific loci with any sort of genetic linkage to the GFP locus (physical, epistatic, or pleiotropic) will be favoured. This means that in the “male” treatment all GFP-linked standing genetic variation for increased fitness via sperm will accumulate while loci for increased fitness via eggs will be filtered out (and vice versa for the “female” treatment).

I will supplement this experiment with quantitative genetic analysis of standing sexually antagonistic genetic variation for fitness in M. lignano, as well as simulation modeling of the maintenance of sexually antagonistic genetic variation in hermaphroditic species in general.

The flatworm Macrostomum lignano
Picture courtesy of Lukas Schärer
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Contact information

Jessica Abbott
Evolutionary ecology

Telephone: +46 46-222 93 04
E-mail: Jessica [dot] Abbott [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

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