The relationship between intraspecific assortative mating and reproductive isolation between divergent populations


The term ‘assortative mating’ has been applied to describe two very different phenomena: (1) the tendency for individuals to choose phenotypically similar mates from among conspecifics; or (2) the tendency to prefer conspecific over hete-rospecific mates (behavioral reproductive isolation). Both forms of assortative mating are widespread in nature, but the relationship between these behaviors remains unclear. Namely, it is plausible that a preference for phenotypically similar conspecifics incidentally reduces the probability of mating with phenotypically divergent heterospecifics. We present a model to calculate how the level of reproductive isolation depends on intraspecific assortative mating and the phenotypic divergence between species. For empirically reasonable levels of intraspecific assortment on a single trait axis, we show that strong reproductive isolation requires very substantial phenotypic divergence. We illustrate this point by applying our model to empirical data from threespine stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus and Darwin’s Finches (Geospiza spp). We conclude that typical levels of intraspecific assortment cannot generally be extrapolated to explain levels of interspecific reproductive isolation. Instead, reproductive isolation between species likely arises from different mate choice behaviors, or multivariate assortative mating.

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