Sexual dimorphism and adaptive speciation: two sides of the same ecological coin


Models of adaptive speciation are typically concerned with demonstrating that it is possible for ecologically driven disruptive selection to lead to the evolution of assortative mating and hence speciation. However, disruptive selection could also lead to other forms of evolutionary diversification, including ecological sexual dimorphisms. Using a model of frequency‐dependent intraspecific competition, we show analytically that adaptive speciation and dimorphism require identical ecological conditions. Numerical simulations of individual‐based models show that a single ecological model can produce either evolutionary outcome, depending on the genetic independence of male and female traits and the potential strength of assortative mating. Speciation is inhibited when the genetic basis of male and female ecological traits allows the sexes to diverge substantially. This is because sexual dimorphism, which can evolve quickly, can eliminate the frequency‐dependent disruptive selection that would have provided the impetus for speciation. Conversely, populations with strong assortative mating based on ecological traits are less likely to evolve a sexual dimorphism because females cannot simultaneously prefer males more similar to themselves while still allowing the males to diverge. This conflict between speciation and dimorphism can be circumvented in two ways. First, we find a novel form of speciation via negative assortative mating, leading to two dimorphic daughter species. Second, if assortative mating is based on a neutral marker trait, trophic dimorphism and speciation by positive assortative mating can occur simultaneously. We conclude that while adaptive speciation and ecological sexual dimorphism may occur simultaneously, allowing for sexual dimorphism restricts the likelihood of adaptive speciation. Thus, it is important to recognize that disruptive selection due to frequency‐dependent interactions can lead to more than one form of adaptive splitting.

MIDAS Network Members