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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A General Explanation for the Persistence of Reproductive Interference.

  • Author(s): Drury, Jonathan P
  • Anderson, Christopher N
  • Cabezas Castillo, Maria B
  • Fisher, Jewel
  • McEachin, Shawn
  • Grether, Gregory F
  • et al.

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Reproductive interference is widespread, despite the theoretical expectation that it should be eliminated by reproductive character displacement (RCD). A possible explanation is that females of sympatric species are too similar phenotypically for males to distinguish between them, resulting in a type of evolutionary dilemma or catch-22 in which reproductive interference persists because male mate recognition (MR) cannot evolve until female phenotypes diverge further, and vice versa. Here we illustrate and test this hypothesis with data on rubyspot damselflies (Hetaerina spp.). First, reproductive isolation owing to male MR breaks down with increasing interspecific similarity in female phenotypes. Second, comparing allopatric and sympatric populations yielded no evidence for RCD, suggesting that parallel divergence in female coloration and male MR in allopatry determines the level of reproductive isolation on secondary contact. Whenever reproductive isolation depends on male MR and females of sympatric species are phenotypically similar, the evolutionary catch-22 hypothesis offers an explanation for the persistence of reproductive interference.

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