Duplicate copies of a gene shared by male and female fruit flies have evolved to resolve competing demands between the sexes. New genetic analysis by researchers at the University of Chicago describes how these copies have evolved separate male- and female-specific functions that are crucial to reproduction and fertility. These changes occurred in just 200,000 years since the genes duplicated, meaning that this process can resolve selective pressures between sexes and specialize relatively quickly.
“Even though males and females share nearly all of their genomes, they each have to deal with very distinct selective pressures,” said Nicholas VanKuren, a graduate student at UChicago and co-author of the study, published this week in Nature Ecology & Evolution. “The really unexpected result from this study is that despite being so young, these genes rapidly evolved, not only in a way to mitigate the sexual conflict but also to develop essential, sex-specific functions.”