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Genetics of Sex Differences

We are interested in various aspects of the genetics of sex differences, including sexual selection and sexual conflict, the evolution of sexual dimorphism, and sex chromosome evolution. We work at the interface between evolutionary ecology and genomics.

A group of the researchers standing outside.

We work in Genetics of Sex differences (from left to right): Pallavi Chauhan, Yesbol Manat, Qinyang Li, Bengt Hansson, Jessica Abbott, Aivars Cirulis, Hanna Sigeman, Suvi Ponnikas and Georgios Katsianis.

Sexual antagonism

Sexually antagonistic genetic variation is when the same gene variant has opposite effects on the fitness of males and females. Sexually antagonistic genes and traits are interesting because they may hold the key to one of the long-standing paradoxes in evolutionary biology; the maintenance of standing genetic variation. When selection is strong and traits are heritable, it is expected that standing genetic variance for fitness should be rapidly depleted. Yet this is not what we see when we study natural populations. Sexual antagonism may provide an answer since it means that the fitness of any given allele is context-dependent, preventing rapid depletion of genetic variance. Sexual antagonism is also thought to be a key factor in the evolution of sex chromosomes.


In these projects we work on sexual antagonism:

Sex chromosome evolution

Highly differentiated sex chromosomes are common in many species, e.g. in mammals (X vs. Y) and birds (Z vs. W). They have evolved through multiple processes including cessation of recombination, degeneration of the Y and W chromosomes, and the evolution of dosage compensation. It is difficult to study these processes in old, already highly heteromorphic, sex chromosomes, such as in mammals and most birds. We therefore attempt to study the early evolution of sex chromosomes using a variety of methods, including characterization of new portions of the sex chromosome (i.e. neo-sex chromosomes) in natural populations, and experimental evolution of sex chromosomes in the lab. Exactly how sex chromosomes may resolve sexual conflicts or cause reproductive incompatibilities between diverging lineages remains to be understood.


Our projects about sex chromosome evolution:

Page Manager:

Contact information

Jessica Abbott
Senior lecturer
Evolutionary ecology

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

Bengt Hansson
Evolutionary ecology

Telephone: +46 46 222 49 96
E-mail: Bengt [dot] Hansson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se