Parasite-mediated sexual selection: to mate or not to mate?


Pirrie A., Chapman H. & Ashby B (2022) ‘Parasite-mediated sexual selection: to mate or not to mate?’ in Ezenwa V.O., Altizer, S. & Hall R. (ed.) Animal Behavior and Parasitism. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, UK. pp. 151-168

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The concept of sexual selection has been around since Darwin, but the notion of parasites being a major driver of sexual selection in their hosts is relatively recent. Sparked by the inception of the Hamilton-Zuk hypothesis four decades ago, parasite-mediated sexual selection (PMSS) has since been a major focus of both theoretical and empirical research in evolutionary biology. In this chapter, we discuss the development and current state of PMSS research, from the main hypotheses (good genes, transmission avoidance, parental care), to empirical data and mathematical modelling. We pay special attention to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and consider the implications of host-parasite coevolution for PMSS, including recent theoretical advancements in this area. Finally, we identify directions for future theoretical and empirical research into PMSS.