Journal of Evolutionary Biology vol:23 issue:12 pages:2694-2708
Mating isolation is a frequent contributor to ecological speciation - but how consistently does it evolve as a result of divergent selection? We tested for genetically based mating isolation between lake and stream threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus L.) from the Misty watershed, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. We combined several design elements that are uncommon in the studies of stickleback mate choice: (i) we used second-generation laboratory-reared fish (to reduce environmental and maternal effects), (ii) we allowed for male-male competitive interactions (instead of the typical no-choice trials) and (iii) we included hybrids along with pure types. Males of different types (Lake, Inlet, hybrid) were paired in aquaria, allowed to build nests and then exposed sequentially to females of all three types. We found that Lake and Inlet males differed in behaviours thought to influence stickleback mate choice (inter- and intra-sexual aggression, display and nest activities), whereas hybrids were either intermediate or apparently 'inferior' in these behaviours. Despite these differences, Lake and Inlet fish did not mate assortatively and hybrid males did not have a mating disadvantage. Our study reinforces the noninevitability of mating isolation evolving in response to ecological differences and highlights the need to further investigate the factors promoting and constraining progress towards ecological speciation.