Original Paper


, Volume 129, Issue 3, pp 309-327

First online:

Natural selection and divergence in mate preference during speciation

  • Patrik NosilAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University Email author 
  • , Bernard J. CrespiAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University
  • , Regine GriesAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University
  • , Gerhard GriesAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University

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Sexual isolation can evolve due to natural selection against hybrids (reinforcement). However, many different forms of hybrid dysfunction, and selective processes that do not involve hybrids, can contribute to the evolution of sexual isolation. Here we review how different selective processes affect the evolution of sexual isolation, describe approaches for distinguishing among them, and assess how they contribute to variation in sexual isolation among populations of Timema cristinae stick-insects. Pairs of allopatric populations of T. cristinae living on different host-plant species exhibit greater sexual isolation than those on the same host, indicating that some sexual isolation has evolved due to host adaptation. Sexual isolation is strongest in regions where populations on different hosts are in geographic contact, a pattern of reproductive character displacement that is indicative of reinforcement. Ecological costs to hybridization do occur but traits under ecological selection (predation) do not co-vary strongly with the probability of between-population mating such that selection on ecological traits is not predicted to produce a strong correlated evolutionary response in mate preference. Moreover, F1 hybrid egg inviability is lacking and the factors contributing to reproductive character displacement require further study. Finally, we show that sexual isolation involves, at least in part, olfactory communication. Our results illustrate how understanding of the evolution of sexual isolation can be enhanced by isolating the roles of diverse ecological and evolutionary processes.


Speciation Hybrid fitness Mate choice Reproductive isolation Pheromones