Sexual reproduction is a fundamental aspect of life. It is defined by the occurrence of meiosis and the fusion of two gametes of different sexes or mating types. Sex-determination mechanisms are responsible for the sexual fate and development of sexual characteristics in an organism, be it a unicellular alga, a plant, or an animal. In many cases, sex determination is genetic: males and females have different alleles or different genes that specify their sexual morphology. In animals, this is often accompanied by chromosomal differences. In other cases, sex may be determined by environmental (e.g. temperature) or social variables (e.g. the size of an organism relative to other members of its population). Surprisingly, sex-determination mechanisms are not evolutionarily conserved but are bewilderingly diverse and appear to have had rapid turnover rates during evolution. Evolutionary biologists continue to seek a solution to this conundrum. What drives the surprising dynamics of such a fundamental process that always leads to the same outcome: two sex types, male and female? The answer is complex but the ongoing genomic revolution has already greatly increased our knowledge of sex-determination systems and sex chromosomes in recent years. This novel book presents and synthesizes our current understanding, and clearly shows that sex-determination evolution will remain a dynamic field of future research.
The Evolution of Sex Determination is an advanced, research level text suitable for graduate students and researchers in genetics, developmental biology, and evolution.
1: What are sexes, and why are there sexes?
2: The diversity of sexual cycles
3: Molecular mechanisms of sex determination
4: The quantitative genetics of sex determination
5: The evolution of sex chromosomes
6: Evolutionary correlates of sex-determination systems
7: Transitions among sex-determination systems
Leo Beukeboom is full professor in Evolutionary Genetics at the Centre of Ecological and Evolutionary Studies of the University of Groningen (Netherlands). His expertise is in organismal evolution with special interest in speciation, life history evolution, reproductive systems, sex determination and selfish genetic elements. His current research focuses on the interaction of genetic mechanisms of sex determination with life history traits in insects, Experimental study systems include species of haplodiploid parasitoid wasps and the polymorphic sex determination system of houseflies.
Nicolas Perrin is full professor at the Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne (Switzerland). His wide-ranging interests across evolutionary ecology led him to work on a diversity of topics, from life-history theory and optimal resource allocation to the evolution of mate choice and mating systems, population genetics and phylogeography, habitat and niche modeling, and the evolution of dispersal, kin structures and social systems. His present research focuses on sex-determination systems, integrating evolutionary modeling approaches with empirical work on the dynamics of sex chromosomes, using amphibians as model organisms.