Sexual selection and sexual conflict are drivers of evolutionary diversity and are responsible for some of the most remarkable forms of variation in nature. With increasingly available genetic technologies, we are beginning to understand how sexual selection and sexual conflict can result in variation at the molecular level and how this variation may be important in dictating reproductive outcomes. In many organisms, reproductive proteins show signatures of rapid evolution and high levels of variation, suggesting that an intersexual arms race (or “Battle of the Sexes”) is driving the evolution of these genes. However, we still know very little about the ecological pressures that result in this genetic variation. In this NSF-funded porject, we will investigate intraspecific variation in reproductive proteins in female blue-tailed damselflies. This system is ideal for such studies because: 1) females have a well described color polymorphism that is related to the rate of male harassment and can be used to infer the degree of conflict between the sexes (male-like color morphs are harassed less), 2) a draft genome of the blue-tailed damselfly (Ischnura elegans) is available and will facilitate RNA seq data analysis. Our study will be one of the first to investigate the ecological significance of reproductive conflicts at the molecular level in a species exhibiting a high level of variation in female coloration and behavioral mating strategies.
Through a combination of field experiments and Next Generation Sequencing we aim to:
(1) identify female reproductive proteins that are involved in mating.
(2) characterize variation in reproductive proteins among females of different color morphs.
(3) investigate if there is any genomic signature of selection on reproductive genes among female color morphs