Twenty years ago, Bulmer and Bull suggested that disruptive selection, produced by environmental fluctuations, can result in an evolutionary transition from environmental sex determination (ESD) to genetic sex determination (GSD). We investigated the feasibility of such a process, using mutation-limited adaptive dynamics and individual-based computer simulations. Our model describes the evolution of a reaction norm for sex determination in a metapopulation setting with partial migration and variation in an environmental variable both within and between local patches. The reaction norm represents the probability of becoming a female as a function of environmental state and was modeled as a sigmoid function with two parameters, one giving the location (i.e., the value of the environmental variable for which an individual has equal chance of becoming either sex) and the other giving the slope of the reaction norm for that environment. The slope can be interpreted as being set by the level of developmental noise in morph determination, with less noise giving a steeper slope and a more switchlike reaction norm. We found convergence stable reaction norms with intermediate to large amounts of developmental noise for conditions characterized by low migration rates, small differential competitive advantages between the sexes over environments, and little variation between individual environments within patches compared to variation between patches. We also considered reaction norms with the slope parameter constrained to a high value, corresponding to little developmental noise. For these we found evolutionary branching in the location parameter and a transition from ESD toward GSD, analogous to the original analysis by Bulmer and Bull. Further evolutionary change, including dominance evolution, produced a polymorphism acting as a GSD system with heterogamety. Our results point to the role of developmental noise in the evolution of sex determination.
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Vol. 57 • No. 12