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On the Evolutionary Consequences of Sexual Imprinting

Kevin N. Laland
Evolution
Vol. 48, No. 2 (Apr., 1994), pp. 477-489
DOI: 10.2307/2410106
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2410106
Page Count: 13
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On the Evolutionary Consequences of Sexual Imprinting
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Abstract

The idea that sexual imprinting may generate sexual selection and possibly lead to speciation has been much discussed in the ethological literature. Here the feasibility of three such hypotheses is investigated using mathematical models of sexual selection in which mating preferences are acquired through imprinting and hence dependent upon the parental phenotypes. The principal findings are the following. (1) Sexual imprinting reduces the likelihood of novel adaptive traits spreading through a population, except in some circumstances in which there is heterozygote advantage. (2) Asymmetrical mating preferences, acquired through imprinting, can generate sexual selection for traits that impair survival. (3) The conditions under which sexual imprinting will maintain a genetic polymorphism in a population are fairly restricted. (4) Sexual imprinting can act as a barrier to gene flow minimizing the impact of migration and preserving and accentuating genetic differences between populations. The findings suggest that sexual imprinting may be of considerable evolutionary significance.

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