Sexually selected traits contribute greatly to phenotypic diversity, yet we have historically understood little about their genetic basis and how that basis may affect their evolution. Recent work in developmental and quantitative genetics has provided both mechanistic and statistical descriptions of genotype-phenotype maps for sexually selected traits. These studies expose generally complex genetic architectures; genotype-phenotype maps are polygenic with allelic effects that are pleiotropic and highly context-dependent. At the same time, developments in quantitative genetics have provided new insights into the microevolutionary potential of standing variation and indicate genetic constraints on the contemporary evolution of male sexually selected characters, mate preferences, and also male mating success itself. Understanding the extent to which these constraints are a function of genetic architecture will require a tighter integration of developmental, molecular, and quantitative genetic approaches in a variety of model systems. Emerging genomic technologies offer an unprecedented opportunity to deepen our understanding of sexual selection as an evolutionary process.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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