Balancing Selection in Species with Separate Sexes: Insights from Fisher’s Geometric Model
Tim Connallon, Andrew G. Clark


How common is balancing selection, and what fraction of phenotypic variance is attributable to balanced polymorphisms? Despite decades of research, answers to these questions remain elusive. Moreover, there is no clear theoretical prediction about the frequency with which balancing selection is expected to arise within a population. Here, we use an extension of Fisher’s geometric model of adaptation to predict the probability of balancing selection in a population with separate sexes, wherein polymorphism is potentially maintained by two forms of balancing selection: (1) heterozygote advantage, where heterozygous individuals at a locus have higher fitness than homozygous individuals, and (2) sexually antagonistic selection (a.k.a. intralocus sexual conflict), where the fitness of each sex is maximized by different genotypes at a locus. We show that balancing selection is common under biologically plausible conditions and that sex differences in selection or sex-by-genotype effects of mutations can each increase opportunities for balancing selection. Although heterozygote advantage and sexual antagonism represent alternative mechanisms for maintaining polymorphism, they mutually exist along a balancing selection continuum that depends on population and sex-specific parameters of selection and mutation. Sexual antagonism is the dominant mode of balancing selection across most of this continuum.

  • Received November 26, 2013.
  • Accepted May 6, 2014.
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