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Journal Article

Reinforcement of Stickleback Mate Preferences: Sympatry Breeds Contempt

Howard D. Rundle and Dolph Schluter
Evolution
Vol. 52, No. 1 (Feb., 1998), pp. 200-208
DOI: 10.2307/2410935
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2410935
Page Count: 9
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Reinforcement of Stickleback Mate Preferences: Sympatry Breeds Contempt
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Abstract

Detailed studies of reproductive isolation and how it varies among populations can provide valuable insight into the mechanisms of speciation. Here we investigate how the strength of premating isolation varies between sympatric and allopatric populations of threespine sticklebacks to test a prediction of the hypothesis of reinforcement: that interspecific mate discrimination should be stronger in sympatry than in allopatry. In conducting such tests, it is important to control for ecological character displacement between sympatric species because ecological character divergence may strengthen prezygotic isolation as a by-product. We control for ecological character displacement by comparing mate preferences of females from a sympatric population (benthics) with mate preferences of females from two allopatric populations that most closely resemble the sympatric benthic females in ecology and morphology. Nochoice mating trials indicate that sympatric benthic females mate less readily with heterospecific (limnetic) than conspecific (benthic) males, whereas two different populations of allopatric females resembling benthics show no such discrimination. These differences demonstrate reproductive character displacement of benthic female mate choice. Previous studies have established that hybridization between sympatric species occurred in the past in the wild and that hybrid offspring have lower fitness than either parental species, thus providing conditions under which natural selection would favor individuals that do not hybridize. Results are therefore consistent with the hypothesis that female mate preferences have evolved as a response to reduced hybrid fitness (reinforcement), although direct effects of sympatry or a biased extinction process could also produce the pattern. Males of the other sympatric species (limnetics) showed a preference for smaller females, in contrast to the inferred ancestral preference for larger females, suggesting reproductive character displacement of limnetic male mate preferences as well.

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