The virtues and limitations of exploring the eco-evolutionary dynamics of sexually selected traits

7 June 2019

Alpedrinha, Joao; Rodrigues, Leonor; Magalhães, Sara; Abbott, Jessica

Most studies on eco-evolutionary feedbacks concern the influence of abiotic factors, or predator-prey and host-parasite interactions, while studies involving sexual interactions are lagging behind. This is at odds with the potential of these interactions to engage in such processes. Indeed, there is now ample evidence that sexual selection is affected by ecological change and that sexually selected traits can evolve rapidly, which may modify the ecological context of populations, and thus the selection pressures they will be exposed to. Here we review evidence for such eco-evolutionary processes. We discuss examples of eco-evolutionary change in an attempt to understand the challenges related with identifying and characterizing such processes. In particular, we focus on the challenges associated with accurately identifying the components of the feedback as well as their causal relation. Finally, we evaluate scenarios where understanding eco-evolutionary feedbacks of sexual selection may help us appreciate the effects of sexual selection in shaping evolutionary processes.