Evidence has been accumulating to support the process of reinforcement as a potential mechanism in speciation. In many species, mate choice decisions are influenced by cultural factors, including learned mating preferences (sexual imprinting) or learned mate attraction signals (e.g., bird song). It has been postulated that learning can have a strong impact on the likelihood of speciation and perhaps on the process of reinforcement, but no models have explicitly considered learning in a reinforcement context. We review the evidence that suggests that learning may be involved in speciation and reinforcement, and present a model of reinforcement via learned preferences. We show that not only can reinforcement occur when preferences are learned by imprinting, but that such preferences can maintain species differences easily in comparison with both autosomal and sex-linked genetically inherited preferences. We highlight the need for more explicit study of the connection between the behavioral process of learning and the evolutionary process of reinforcement in natural systems.
KeywordsImprinting Learning Preferences Model Reinforcement Speciation
The authors thank Rob Lachlan and Haven Wiley for discussion and Anders Brodin and an anonymous reviewer for comments on the paper. M.R.S. was funded by the National Science Foundation Grants DEB-0234849 and DEB-0614166 and was supported in this work by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), NSF #EF-0423641.
- Birkhead TR, Møller AP (1992) Sperm competition in birds. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Brodin A, Haas F (in press) Hybrid zone maintenance by non-adaptive mate choice. Evol EcolGoogle Scholar
- Coyne JA, Orr HA (2004) Speciation. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MAGoogle Scholar
- Dobzhansky T (1937) Genetics and the origin of species. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Grant PR, Grant BR (1998) Hybridization and speciation in Darwin’s finches: the role of sexual imprinting on a culturally transmitted trait. In: Howard DJ, Berlocher SH (eds) Endless forms: species and speciation. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 404–422Google Scholar
- Howard DJ (1993) Reinforcement: origin, dynamics, and fate of an evolutionary hypothesis. In: Harrison RG (ed) Hybrid zones and the evolutionary process. Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
- Kandul NP, Wright KM, Kandul EV, Noor MAF (2006) No evidence for learned mating discrimination in male Drosophila pseudoobscura. BMC Evol Biol 6:54Google Scholar
- Searcy WA, Yasukawa K (1996) Song and female choice. In: Kroodsma DE, Miller EH (eds) Ecology and evolution of acoustic communication in birds. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, pp 454–473Google Scholar