Are traits that experience reinforcement also under sexual selection?

Am Nat. 2007 Sep;170(3):409-20. doi: 10.1086/519401. Epub 2007 Jul 16.


Where closely related species occur in sympatry, reinforcement may result in the evolution of traits involved in species recognition that are at the same time used for within-species mate choice. Drosophila serrata lives in forested habitat on the east coast of Australia, and over the northern half of its distribution it coexists with a closely related species, Drosophila birchii. Here we show that the strength of reinforcing selection in natural populations is sufficient to generate reproductive character displacement along a 36-km transect across the contact between sympatric and allopatric populations of D. serrata. The sympatric and allopatric populations display genetically based differences in male cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs), while female CHCs changed with latitude across the contact. The directional changes observed in male CHCs between sympatric and allopatric regions were the same changes that were generated by experimental sympatry in the laboratory, providing direct evidence that the changes across the contact zone are due to the presence of D. birchii. We show that sympatric and allopatric females differ in preference for male CHCs and that females from allopatric populations prefer allopatric-like male CHCs over sympatric-like CHCs. Male attractiveness within D. serrata may therefore be compromised by reinforcing selection, preventing the spread of sympatric-like blends to the area of allopatry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation
  • Hydrocarbons / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mating Preference, Animal / physiology*
  • Phenotype
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Hydrocarbons