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Evolution. 2006 Oct;60(10):1967-80.

The evolution of female mating preferences: differentiation from species with promiscuous males can promote speciation.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755, USA. mark.mcpeek@dartmouth.edu

Abstract

Females of many species are frequently courted by promiscuous males of their own and other closely related species. Such mating interactions may impose strong selection on female mating preferences to favor trait values in conspecific males that allow females to discriminate them from their heterospecific rivals. We explore the consequences of such selection in models of the evolution of female mating preferences when females must interact with heterospecific males from which they are completely postreproductively isolated. Specifically, we allow the values of both the most preferred male trait and the tolerance of females for males that deviate from this most preferred trait to evolve. Also, we consider situations in which females base their mating decisions on multiple male traits and must interact with males of multiple species. Females will rapidly differentiate in preference when they sometimes mistake heterospecific males for suitable mates, and the differentiation of female preference will select for conspecific male traits to differentiate as well. In most circumstances, this differentiation continues indefinitely, but slows substantially once females are differentiated enough to make mistakes rare. Populations of females with broader preference functions (i.e., broader tolerance for males with trait values that deviate from females' most preferred values) will evolve further to differentiate if the shape of the function cannot evolve. Also, the magnitude of separation that evolves is larger and achieved faster when conspecific males have lower relative abundance. The direction of differentiation is also very sensitive to initial conditions if females base their mate choices on multiple male traits. We discuss how these selection pressures on female mate choice may lead to speciation by generating differentiation among populations of a progenitor species that experiences different assemblages of heterospecifics. Opportunities for differentiation increase as the number of traits involved in mate choice increase and as the number of species involved increases. We suggest that this mode of speciation may have been particularly prevalent in response to the cycles of climatic change throughout the Quaternary that forced the assembly and disassembly of entire communities on a continentwide basis.

PMID:
17133854
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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