Sexual selection, the suite of processes that lead to differential mating success among individuals, probably influences the evolutionary trajectory of populations. Because sexual selection often shifts traits away from their survival optima, strong sexual selection pressures are thought to increase potential for population extinction, especially during environmental change. Sexual selection pressures may also increase the opportunity for speciation by accelerating the generation of pre-zygotic isolation among populations. These relationships remain largely untested experimentally. Here, we allow populations of baker's yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to evolve for approximately 250 generations with altered sex ratios in order to test the effect of the strength of sexual selection on the fate of populations. We find that populations experiencing stronger sexual selection are less able to adapt to a novel environment compared with populations experiencing weaker sexual selection or no sex, and that strong sexual selection erases the benefits of sexual reproduction. This pattern persists when fitness is assayed in a closely related environment. We also identify a trend that may suggest the beginning of pre-zygotic isolation between populations experiencing stronger sexual selection, though this is not statistically significant. These results highlight the importance of sexual selection in shaping macroevolutionary patterns and biodiversity.
Reding, L. P., Swaddle, J. P., & Murphy, H. A. (2013). Sexual selection hinders adaptation in experimental populations of yeast. Biology letters, 9(3), 20121202.