Temporal windows of reproductive opportunity reinforce species barriers in a marine broadcast spawning assemblage

Sci Rep. 2016 Jul 4;6:29198. doi: 10.1038/srep29198.


Prezygotic isolating mechanisms act to limit hybridization and maintain the genetic identity of closely-related species. While synchronous intraspecific spawning is a common phenomenon amongst marine organisms and plays an important role in reproductive success, asynchronous spawning between potentially hybridizing lineages may also be important in maintaining species boundaries. We tested this hypothesis by comparing reproductive synchrony over daily to hourly timescales in a sympatric assemblage of intertidal fucoid algae containing selfing hermaphroditic (Fucus spiralis and Fucus guiryi) and dioecious (Fucus vesiculosus and Fucus serratus) species. Our results confirm that gametes are released on semi-lunar cycles in all species. However, sister species with different mating systems showed asynchronous spawning at finer circadian timescales, thus providing evidence for a partial reproductive barrier between hermaphroditic and dioecious species. Finally, our data also emphasize the ecological, developmental, and/or physiological constraints that operate to restrict reproduction to narrow temporal windows of opportunity in the intertidal zone and more generally the role of ecological factors in marine speciation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Ecosystem*
  • Fucus / physiology*
  • Periodicity
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Species Specificity
  • Water Movements