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Assortative mating by diet in a phenotypically unimodal but ecologically variable population of stickleback.

Abstract

Speciation with gene flow may be driven by a combination of positive assortative mating and disruptive selection, particularly if selection and assortative mating act on the same trait, eliminating recombination between ecotype and mating type. Phenotypically unimodal populations of threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) are commonly subject to disruptive selection due to competition for alternate prey. Here we present evidence that stickleback also exhibit assortative mating by diet. Among-individual diet variation leads to variation in stable isotopes, which reflect prey use. We find a significant correlation between the isotopes of males and eggs within their nests. Because egg isotopes are derived from females, this correlation reflects assortative mating between males and females by diet. In concert with disruptive selection, this assortative mating should facilitate divergence. However, the stickleback population remains phenotypically unimodal, highlighting the fact that assortative mating and disruptive selection do not guarantee evolutionary divergence and speciation.

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