Does reproductive isolation evolve faster in larger populations via sexually antagonistic coevolution?

Biol Lett. 2009 Oct 23;5(5):693-6. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0072. Epub 2009 Apr 1.


Sexual conflict over reproductive investment can lead to sexually antagonistic coevolution and reproductive isolation. It has been suggested that, unlike most models of allopatric speciation, the evolution of reproductive isolation through sexually antagonistic coevolution will occur faster in large populations as these harbour greater levels of standing genetic variation, receive larger numbers of mutations and experience more intense sexual selection. We tested this in bruchid beetle populations (Callosobruchus maculatus) by manipulating population size and standing genetic variability in replicated lines derived from founders that had been released from sexual conflict for 90 generations. We found that after 19 generations of reintroduced sexual conflict, none of our treatments had evolved significant overall reproductive isolation among replicate lines. However, as predicted, measures of reproductive isolation tended to be greater among larger populations. We discuss our methodology, arguing that reproductive isolation is best examined by performing a matrix of allopatric and sympatric crosses whereas measurement of divergence requires crosses with a tester line.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Coleoptera / physiology*
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation
  • Male
  • Population Density
  • Population Dynamics
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Social Isolation*