The Sensory Ecology of Speciation

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2024 Jan 2;16(1):a041428. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a041428.


In this work, we explore the potential influence of sensory ecology on speciation, including but not limited to the concept of sensory drive, which concerns the coevolution of signals and sensory systems with the local environment. The sensory environment can influence individual fitness in a variety of ways, thereby affecting the evolution of both pre- and postmating reproductive isolation. Previous work focused on sensory drive has undoubtedly advanced the field, but we argue that it may have also narrowed our understanding of the broader influence of the sensory ecology on speciation. Moreover, the clearest examples of sensory drive are largely limited to aquatic organisms, which may skew the influence of contributing factors. We review the evidence for sensory drive across environmental conditions, and in this context discuss the importance of more generalized effects of sensory ecology on adaptive behavioral divergence. Finally, we consider the potential of rapid environmental change to influence reproductive barriers related to sensory ecologies. Our synthesis shows the importance of sensory conditions for local adaptation and divergence in a range of behavioral contexts and extends our understanding of the interplay between sensory ecology and speciation.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Ecology*
  • Genetic Speciation