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Evolution. 2005 Feb;59(2):361-73.

Parallel evolution of sexual isolation in sticklebacks.

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Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


Mechanisms of speciation are not well understood, despite decades of study. Recent work has focused on how natural and sexual selection cause sexual isolation. Here, we investigate the roles of divergent natural and sexual selection in the evolution of sexual isolation between sympatric species of threespine sticklebacks. We test the importance of morphological and behavioral traits in conferring sexual isolation and examine to what extent these traits have diverged in parallel between multiple, independently evolved species pairs. We use the patterns of evolution in ecological and mating traits to infer the likely nature of selection on sexual isolation. Strong parallel evolution implicates ecologically based divergent natural and/or sexual selection, whereas arbitrary directionality implicates nonecological sexual selection or drift. In multiple pairs we find that sexual isolation arises in the same way: assortative mating on body size and asymmetric isolation due to male nuptial color. Body size and color have diverged in a strongly parallel manner, similar to ecological traits. The data implicate ecologically based divergent natural and sexual selection as engines of speciation in this group.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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