Assortative Mating in Animals


Assortative mating occurs when there is a correlation (positive or negative) between male and female phenotypes or genotypes across mated pairs. To determine the typical strength and direction of assortative mating in animals, we carried out a meta-analysis of published measures of assortative mating for a variety of phenotypic and genotypic traits in a diverse set of animal taxa. We focused on the strength of assortment within populations, excluding reproductively isolated populations and species. We collected 1,116 published correlations between mated pairs from 254 species (360 unique species-trait combinations) in five phyla. The mean correlation between mates was 0.28, showing an overall tendency toward positive assortative mating within populations. Although 19% of the correlations were negative, simulations suggest that these could represent type I error and that negative assortative mating may be rare. We also find significant differences in the strength of assortment among major taxonomic groups and among trait categories. We discuss various possible reasons for the evolution of assortative mating and its implications for speciation.

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