Ecological and evolutionary applications for environmental sex reversal of fish

A. McNair, P. M. Lokman, G. P. Closs and S. Nakagawa,  Quarterly Review of Biology,  90:23-44. 2015.

Environmental sex reversal (ESR), which results in a mismatch between genotypic and phenotypic sex, is well documented in numerous fish species and may be induced by chemical exposure. Historically, research involving piscine ESR has been carried out with a view to improving profitability in aquaculture or to elucidate the processes governing sex determination and sexual differentiation. However, recent studies in evolution and ecology suggest research on ESR now has much wider applications and ramifications. We begin with an overview of ESR in fish and a brief review of the traditional applications thereof We then discuss ESR and its potential demographic consequences in wild populations. Theory even suggests sex-reversed fish may be purposefully released to manipulate population dynamics. We suggest new research directions that may prove fruitful in understanding how ESR at the individual level translates to population-level processes. In the latter portion of the review we focus on evolutionary applications of ESR Sex-reversal studies from the aquaculture literature provide insight in to the evolvability of determinants of sexual phenotype. Additionally, induced sex reversal can provide information about the evolution of sex chromosomes and sex-linked traits. Recently, naturally occurring ESR has been implicated as a mechanism contributing to the evolution of sex chromosomes.