Research Topic

The Development and Fitness Consequences of Sex Roles

About this Research Topic

In most sexually reproducing species, males and females behave differently in various aspects of their reproductive behaviors, so that they exhibit distinctive sex roles. Mate attraction and mate choice, competition for mates, the form and amount of parental care or extra-pair matings provide the most striking differences in this context. Explaining the origin and consequences of these differences are key questions in evolutionary biology, yet we are far from fully understanding the developmental mechanisms (e.g. the balance between environmental and genetic effects) and consequences of sex roles in terms of fitness and evolutionary change. Recent studies suggest that genetic as well as non-genetic mechanisms, such as social or other environmental effects, may work together; learned mate choice, for instance, can cause strong and dynamic effects on genetic patterns of the population and contribute to speciation.

Genetic variation behind sex role behaviors has received a lot of research interest, and so has social influence on specific sex roles- social learning of mating preferences, for instance, is a well-studied aspect of cultural transmission. Environmental effects are complex and can influence the development of sex roles in multiple ways, consequently, such effects are still poorly understood. Recent methodological advances, especially integrating genetic research with behavioral studies (e.g. quantitative genetics) have opened the possibility to ask new questions regarding the mechanisms responsible for sex role development and to answer them using more sophisticated research tools. The main aim of this Research Topic is to focus on current empirical research on sex role development. We explore new lines of research within this domain, with a focus on (but not restricted to) environmental effects. Furthermore, our goal is to extend the taxonomic range within the context of sex role development, therefore, research focusing on new behaviors or phenomena (e.g. sex reversal) related to sex roles and/or using novel animal model systems are especially encouraged. In addition, we welcome research on the fitness and evolutionary consequences of sex roles.

Instead of the traditional interpretation of sex roles that is confined to competition/choosiness during mating, we apply a wider definition, so the scope of this Research Topic extends to any research aimed at the ontogenetic mechanisms, ecology, and fitness consequences of sex differences in reproductive behaviors. In many socially monogamous species, sex roles are very similar, and we also welcome research on explaining the lack of difference from a mechanistic point of view. We especially encourage novel approaches to understand the reasons, mechanism, and consequences of sex role development.

In addition to original research articles, we welcome a wide range of contributions, including brief research reports, perspectives, hypothesis and theoretical articles, methods, reviews, and data reports.


Keywords: Sex roles, sexually dimorphic phenotypes, sex development, trans-generation transmission, social learning, genetic and phenotypic sex, reproductive behaviour, environmental effects, fitness


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

In most sexually reproducing species, males and females behave differently in various aspects of their reproductive behaviors, so that they exhibit distinctive sex roles. Mate attraction and mate choice, competition for mates, the form and amount of parental care or extra-pair matings provide the most striking differences in this context. Explaining the origin and consequences of these differences are key questions in evolutionary biology, yet we are far from fully understanding the developmental mechanisms (e.g. the balance between environmental and genetic effects) and consequences of sex roles in terms of fitness and evolutionary change. Recent studies suggest that genetic as well as non-genetic mechanisms, such as social or other environmental effects, may work together; learned mate choice, for instance, can cause strong and dynamic effects on genetic patterns of the population and contribute to speciation.

Genetic variation behind sex role behaviors has received a lot of research interest, and so has social influence on specific sex roles- social learning of mating preferences, for instance, is a well-studied aspect of cultural transmission. Environmental effects are complex and can influence the development of sex roles in multiple ways, consequently, such effects are still poorly understood. Recent methodological advances, especially integrating genetic research with behavioral studies (e.g. quantitative genetics) have opened the possibility to ask new questions regarding the mechanisms responsible for sex role development and to answer them using more sophisticated research tools. The main aim of this Research Topic is to focus on current empirical research on sex role development. We explore new lines of research within this domain, with a focus on (but not restricted to) environmental effects. Furthermore, our goal is to extend the taxonomic range within the context of sex role development, therefore, research focusing on new behaviors or phenomena (e.g. sex reversal) related to sex roles and/or using novel animal model systems are especially encouraged. In addition, we welcome research on the fitness and evolutionary consequences of sex roles.

Instead of the traditional interpretation of sex roles that is confined to competition/choosiness during mating, we apply a wider definition, so the scope of this Research Topic extends to any research aimed at the ontogenetic mechanisms, ecology, and fitness consequences of sex differences in reproductive behaviors. In many socially monogamous species, sex roles are very similar, and we also welcome research on explaining the lack of difference from a mechanistic point of view. We especially encourage novel approaches to understand the reasons, mechanism, and consequences of sex role development.

In addition to original research articles, we welcome a wide range of contributions, including brief research reports, perspectives, hypothesis and theoretical articles, methods, reviews, and data reports.


Keywords: Sex roles, sexually dimorphic phenotypes, sex development, trans-generation transmission, social learning, genetic and phenotypic sex, reproductive behaviour, environmental effects, fitness


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 July 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 July 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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