Genetic basis of species-specific genitalia reveals role in species diversification

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Science Advances  26 Jun 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 6, eaav9939
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav9939


The diversity of genital morphology among closely related animals with internal fertilization is well known, but the genetic backgrounds are unclear. Here, we show that, in Carabus (Ohomopterus) beetles showing correlated evolution of male and female genital parts, only a few major quantitative trait loci (QTLs) determine differences in genital dimensions between sister species, and sequence divergence is pronounced in the genomic regions containing genital QTLs. The major QTLs for male and female genital dimensions reside in different locations within the same linkage group, implying that coevolution between the sexes is only loosely constrained and can respond to sexually antagonistic selection. The same genomic regions containing the major QTLs show elevated divergence between three pairs of parapatric species with marked differences in genital parts. Our study demonstrates that species diversification can follow coevolution of genitalia between the sexes, even without tight linkage of loci affecting male and female genital dimensions.

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