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Evolution. 2008 Jul;62(7):1635-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2008.00387.x.

Mechanisms of reproductive isolation between an ant species of hybrid origin and one of its parents.

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Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.


The establishment of new species by hybridization is difficult because it requires the development of reproductive isolation (RI) in sympatry to escape the homogenizing effects of gene flow from the parental species. Here we investigated the role of two pre- and two postzygotic mechanisms of RI in a system comprising two interdependent Pogonomyrmex harvester ant lineages (the H1 and H2 lineages) of hybrid origin and one of their parental species (P. rugosus). Similar to most other ants, P. rugosus is characterized by an environmental system of caste determination with female brood developing either into queens or workers depending on nongenetic factors. By contrast, there is a strong genetic component to caste determination in the H1 and H2 lineages because the developmental fate of female brood depends on the genetic origin of the parents, with interlineage eggs developing into workers and intralineage eggs developing into queens. The study of a mixed mating aggregation revealed strong differences in mating flight timing between P. rugosus and the two lineages as a first mechanism of RI. A second important prezygotic mechanism was assortative mating. Laboratory experiments also provided support for one of the two investigated mechanisms of postzygotic isolation. The majority of offspring produced from the few matings between P. rugosus and the lineages aborted at the egg stage. This hybrid inviability was under maternal influence, with hybrids produced by P. rugosus queens being always inviable whereas a small proportion of H2 lineage queens produced large numbers of adult hybrid offspring. Finally, we found no evidence that genetic caste determination acted as a second postzygotic mechanism reducing gene flow between P. rugosus and the H lineages. The few viable P. rugosus-H hybrids were not preferentially shunted into functionally sterile workers but developed into both workers and queens. Overall, these results reveal that the nearly complete (99.5%) RI between P. rugosus and the two hybrid lineages stems from the combination of two typical prezygotic mechanisms (mating time divergence and assortative mating) and one postzygotic mechanism (hybrid inviability).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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