Mechanisms of reinforcement in natural and simulated polymorphic populations

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Reinforcement speciation is the process whereby selection against hybrids drives the evolution of enhanced pre-mating reproductive isolation. Work has focused on divergent mating preferences (assortative mating) but pre-mating isolation can also arise via various migration modification behaviours, such as divergent habitat preferences. The relative importance of these two different mechanisms of reinforcement remains unclear. A recent theoretical model (Yukilevich–True model) found that relative fixation probabilities between these mechanisms can vary. Additionally, natural populations of Timema cristinae walking-sticks exhibit variation (polymorphism) in both mechanisms, generating questions about the patterns expected for allele frequencies prior to fixation, during the early stages of the speciation process. In the present study, we report: (1) new analyses examining the correlation between fixation probabilities for assortative mating and migration modification in the Yukilevich–True model; (2) novel simulations examining allele frequencies in polymorphic populations; and (3) empirical patterns of reinforcement in T. cristinae in the context of theoretical predictions. Simulations of both types yielded congruent results, revealing that the outcome of reinforcement was dependent on the strength of selection. Under weak selection, reinforcement by either mechanism is unlikely. Under intermediate selection, the conditions favoring the rise and fixation of one mechanism favored the rise and fixation of the other. However, assortative mating evolved somewhat more readily than migration modification. Populations of T. cristinae, which experience such intermediate selection, supported these predictions. Under strong selection, the evolution of migration modification generally interfered with the evolution of assortative mating by decreasing migration between populations, thereby reducing selection for assortative mating. Congruence of the results for allele frequencies versus fixation probabilities suggests that similar patterns of reinforcement are expected during different stages of the speciation process. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 95, 305–319.

Keywords: Timema walking-stick; assortative mating; migration modification; reproductive isolation; simulation model; speciation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Ecology and Evolution, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York, 11794, USA

Publication date: October 1, 2008

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