Contact zone dynamics and the evolution of reproductive isolation in a North American treefrog, the spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)

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Stewart, Kathryn
diversification , reinforcement selection , reproductive isolation , range fragmentation , speciation , hybridization
Despite over seven decades of speciation research and 25 years of phylogeographic studies, a comprehensive understanding of mechanisms that generate biological species remains elusive. In temperate zones, the pervasiveness of range fragmentation and subsequent range expansions suggests that secondary contact between diverging lineages may be important in the evolution of species. Thus, such contact zones provide compelling opportunities to investigate evolutionary processes, particularly the roles of geographical isolation in initiating, and indirect selection against hybrids in completing (reinforcement), the evolution of reproductive isolation and speciation. The spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) has six well-supported mitochondrial lineages many of which are now in secondary contact. Here I investigate the evolutionary consequences of secondary contact of two such lineages (Eastern and Interior) in Southwestern Ontario using genetic, morphological, acoustical, experimental, and behavioural evidence to show accentuated divergence of the mate recognition system in sympatry. Mitochondrial and microsatellite data distinguish these two lineages but also show ongoing hybridization. Bayesian assignment tests and cline analysis imply asymmetrical introgression of Eastern lineage nuclear markers into Interior populations. Male calls are divergent between Eastern and Interior allopatric populations and show asymmetrical reproductive character displacement in sympatry. Female preference of pure lineage individuals is also exaggerated in sympatry, with hybrids showing intermediate traits and preference. I suggest that these patterns are most consistent with secondary reinforcement. I assessed levels of post-zygotic isolation between the Eastern and Interior lineages using a laboratory hybridization experiment. Hybrid tadpoles showed equal to or greater fitness than their pure lineage counterparts, but this may be countered through competition. More deformities and developmental anomalies in hybrid tadpoles further suggest post-zygotic isolation. Despite evidence for pre-mating isolation between the two lineages, isolation appears incomplete (i.e. hybridization is ongoing). I hypothesize that potentially less attractive hybrids may circumvent female choice by adopting satellite behaviour. Although mating tactics are related to body size, genetic status may play a role. I show that pure Eastern males almost always engage in calling, while hybrids adopt a satellite tactic. An absence of assortative mating, despite evidence of female preference, suggests successful satellite interception possibly facilitating introgression.
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