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Science. 2007 Nov 9;318(5852):965-7.

Facultative mate choice drives adaptive hybridization.

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Department of Biology, Campus Box 3280, Coker Hall, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


Mating with another species (hybridization) is often maladaptive. Consequently, females typically avoid heterospecifics as mates. Contrary to these expectations, female spadefoot toads were more likely to choose heterospecific males when exposed to environmental conditions that favor hybridization. Indeed, those females with phenotypic characteristics for which hybridization is most favorable were most likely to switch from choosing conspecifics to heterospecifics. Moreover, environmentally dependent mate choice has evolved only in populations and species that risk engaging in, and can potentially benefit from, hybridization. Thus, when the benefits of mate choice vary, females may radically alter their mate selection in response to their own phenotype and their environment, even to the point of choosing males of other species.

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