Multiple speciation events in an arthropod with divergent evolution in sexual morphology

Proc Biol Sci. 2010 Mar 7;277(1682):689-96. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1822. Epub 2009 Nov 4.


Sexual selection can facilitate divergent evolution of traits related to mating and consequently promote speciation. Theoretically, independent operation of sexual selection in different populations can lead to divergence of sexual traits among populations and result in allopatric speciation. Here, we show that divergent evolution in sexual morphology affecting mating compatibility (body size and genital morphologies) and speciation have occurred in a lineage of millipedes, the Parafontaria tonominea species complex. In this millipede group, male and female body and genital sizes exhibit marked, correlated divergence among populations, and the diverged morphologies result in mechanical reproductive isolation between sympatric species. The morphological divergence occurred among populations independently and without any correlation with climatic variables, although matching between sexes has been maintained, suggesting that morphological divergence was not a by-product of climatic adaptation. The diverged populations underwent restricted dispersal and secondary contact without hybridization. The extent of morphological difference between sympatric species is variable, as is diversity among allopatric populations; consequently, the species complex appears to contain many species. This millipede case suggests that sexual selection does contribute to species richness via morphological diversification when a lineage of organisms consists of highly divided populations owing to limited dispersal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthropods / anatomy & histology*
  • Arthropods / classification
  • Arthropods / genetics
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Body Size
  • Female
  • Genetic Speciation*
  • Genitalia / anatomy & histology*
  • Male
  • Mating Preference, Animal
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Sex Characteristics