, Volume 378, Issue 1-3, pp 79-88

Assortative mating between two distinct micro-allopatric populations of Littorina saxatilis (Olivi) on the northeast coast of England

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Abstract

Size assortative mating is a common invertebrate mating pattern and is usually accompanied by male and female sexual selection, and these three behaviours can contribute to reproductive isolation. Two distinct populations of the marine prosobranch Littorina saxatilis, H and M, occur within 15 m of each other on the same shore. Previous studies have demonstrated that these two forms have different reproductive strategies and that the rare hybrids between the two forms show evidence of reproductive dysfunction and hence are less fit than the assumed parental forms. In both populations, female shell height was shown to be a predictor of the number of embryos contained within the brood pouch. The mean shell height of the M population was significantly larger than that of the H population, and the M population matures at a larger shell size than the H population. The two populations show complete assortative mating to type in the field, and occupy different microhabitats on the same shore. Therefore, laboratory-based experiments were performed to determine if assortative mating was maintained in sympatry and also to determine the effect of population density on mate choice. The males of both populations showed sexual selection for female size, choosing to mate with females approximately 10% larger than themselves from an assortment of female sizes. The M population showed complete assortative mating to type, irrespective of the density of H and M females, whereas at low densities the H males did occasionally mate with M females. The role of assortative mating and reinforcement (due to natural selection acting against the less fit hybrids), in maintaining the partial reproductive barrier between the two populations is discussed.