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Sex differences in developmental plasticity and canalization shape population divergence in mate preferences.

  • Erik Svensson
  • Anna Runemark
  • Machteld Verzijden
  • Maren Wellenreuther
Publishing year: 2014
Language: English
Publication/Series: Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences
Volume: 281
Issue: 1797
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Royal Society

Abstract english

Sexual selection of high-quality mates can conflict with species recognition if traits that govern intraspecific mate preferences also influence interspecific recognition. This conflict might be resolved by developmental plasticity and learned mate preferences, which could drive preference divergence in populations that differ in local species composition. We integrate field and laboratory experiments on two calopterygid damselfly species with population genetic data to investigate how sex differences in developmental plasticity affect population divergence in the face of gene flow. Whereas male species recognition is fixed at emergence, females instead learn to recognize heterospecifics. Females are therefore more plastic in their mate preferences than males. We suggest that this results from sex differences in the balance between sexual selection for high-quality mates and selection for species recognition. As a result of these sex differences, females develop more pronounced population divergence in their mate preferences compared with males. Local ecological community context and presence of heterospecifics in combination with sex differences in plasticity and canalization therefore shape population divergence in mate preferences. As ongoing environmental change and habitat fragmentation bring formerly allopatric species into secondary contact, developmental plasticity of mate preferences in either or both sexes might facilitate coexistence and prevent local species extinction.


  • Biological Sciences


  • CAnMove
  • ISSN: 1471-2954
E-mail: erik [dot] svensson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Evolutionary ecology

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