An Experimental Demonstration of Fisher's Principle: Evolution of Sexual Proportion by Natural Selection
Antonio Bernardo Carvalho, Michelle Cristina Sampaio, Flavia Roque Varandas, Louis Bernard Klaczko


Most sexually reproducing species have sexual proportions around 1:1. This major biological phenomenon remained unexplained until 1930, when Fisher proposed that it results from a mechanism of natural selection. Here we report the first experimental test of his model that obeys all its assumptions. We used a naturally occurring X-Y meiotic drive system—the sex-ratio trait of Drosophila mediopunctata—to generate female-biased experimental populations. As predicted by Fisher, these populations evolved toward equal sex proportions due to natural selection, by accumulation of autosomal alleles that direct the parental reproductive effort toward the rare sex. Classical Fisherian evolution is a rather slow mechanism: despite a very large amount of genetic variability, the experimental populations evolved from 16% of males to 32% of males in 49 generations and would take 330 generations (29 years) to reach 49%. This slowness has important implications for species potentially endangered by skewed sexual proportions, such as reptiles with temperature sex determination.

  • Received May 23, 1997.
  • Accepted September 10, 1997.
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