A role for learning in population divergence of mate preferences

Section for Animal Ecology, Department of Biology, Lund University, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden.
Evolution (Impact Factor: 4.61). 11/2010; 64(11):3101-13. DOI: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2010.01085.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

Learning and other forms of phenotypic plasticity have been suggested to enhance population divergence. Mate preferences can develop by learning, and species recognition might not be entirely genetic. We present data on female mate preferences of the banded demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) that suggest a role for learning in population divergence and species recognition. Populations of this species are either allopatric or sympatric with a phenotypically similar congener (C. virgo). These two species differ mainly in the amount of wing melanization in males, and wing patches thus mediate sexual isolation. In sympatry, sexually experienced females discriminate against large melanin wing patches in heterospecific males. In contrast, in allopatric populations within the same geographic region, females show positive ("open-ended") preferences for such large wing patches. Virgin C. splendens females do not discriminate against heterospecific males. Moreover, physical exposure experiments of such virgin females to con- or hetero-specific males significantly influences their subsequent mate preferences. Species recognition is thus not entirely genetic and it is partly influenced by interactions with mates. Learning causes pronounced population divergence in mate preferences between these weakly genetically differentiated populations, and results in a highly divergent pattern of species recognition at a small geographic scale.

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    • "Understanding how individuals make decisions in mate choice is important in order to understand the dynamics of sexual selection and reproductive isolation (Verzijden et al., 2012). Mate choice decision-making can be aided by learning from experience, and many species have shown to learn some aspects of their mate choice (Dukas, 2006;Gailey et al., 1982;Kozak and Boughman, 2009;Magurran and Ramnarine, 2004;Svensson et al., 2010;ten Cate and Vos, 1999;Verzijden et al., 2012). In particular, when learning which females are receptive to their courtship, males of several species show associative learning between particular cues and female mating status. "
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    ABSTRACT: Although males are generally less discriminating than females when it comes to choosing a mate, they still benefit from distinguishing between mates that are receptive to courtship and those that are not, in order to avoid wasting time and energy. It is known that males of Drosophila melanogaster are able to learn to associate olfactory and gustatory cues with female receptivity, but the role of more arbitrary, visual cues in mate choice learning has been overlooked to date in this species. We therefore carried out a series of experiments to determine: 1) whether males had a baseline preference for female eye color (red versus brown), 2) if males could learn to associate an eye color cue with female receptivity, and 3) whether this association disappeared when the males were unable to use this visual cue in the dark. We found that naïve males had no baseline preference for females of either eye color, but that males which were trained with sexually receptive females of a given eye color showed a preference for that color during a standard binary choice experiment. The learned cue was indeed likely to be truly visual, since the preference disappeared when the binary choice phase of the experiment was carried out in darkness.This is, to our knowledge 1) the first evidence that male D. melanogaster can use more arbitrary cues and 2) the first evidence that males use visual cues during mate choice learning. Our findings suggest that that D. melanogaster has untapped potential as a model system for mate choice learning.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Current Zoology
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    • "Evidence has been accumulating from a wide variety of taxa to indicate that learning can be important in the development of mating preferences and traits (reviewed in Verzijden et al., 2012; see also e.g., Guevara-Fiore, 2012; Westerman et al., 2014; Holveck and Reibel, 2014). In such species, learning of preferences (including courtship preferences) and/or traits (such as songs or displays) can ultimately affect species recognition (e.g., in birds: Grant and Grant, 1997; Price, 1998; ten Cate and Vos, 1999; Sorenson et al., 2003; in insects: Dukas, 2004, 2008; Svensson et al., 2010, 2014; in mammals: Kendrick et al.,1998, in fish: Magurran and Ramnarine, 2004; Verzijden and ten Cate, 2007; Kozak and Boughman, 2009; Kozak et al., 2011). There has also been a rich theoretical literature on the interaction of cultural evolution with sexual selection (e.g., Aoki, 1989; Kirkpatrick and Dugatkin, 1994; Laland , 1994a, b; Servedio and Kirkpatrick, 1996; Agrawal, 2001; Aoki et al., 2001; Ihara et al., 2003; Tramm and Servedio, 2008; Dubois et al., 2012; Chaffee et al., 2013; Santos et al., 2014). "

    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Current Zoology
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    • "That vocalizations are likely influenced by the environment (i.e. learning from neighbours) does not undermine our inference of the existence of a reproductive barrier because reproductive isolation between populations can be maintained by selection even if characters involved in mating are not highly heritable (Svensson et al., 2010; Olofsson et al., 2011; Verzijden et al., 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Behavioural barriers to gene flow can play a key role in speciation and hybridisation. Birdsong is well-known for its potential contribution to such behavioural barriers as it may affect gene flow through an effect on territorial and mating success across population boundaries. Conspecific recognition and heterospecific discrimination of acoustic variation can prevent or limit hybridization in areas where closely related species meet. Here we tested the impact of song differences on territorial response levels between two adjacent Henicorhina wood-wren species along an elevational gradient in Colombia. In an earlier study, playback results had revealed an asymmetric response pattern, with low-elevation H. leucophrys bangsi responding strongly to any conspecific or heterospecific song variant, whereas high-elevation H. anachoreta birds discriminated, responding more strongly to their own songs than to those of bangsi. However, in that study we could not exclude a role for relative familiarity to the song stimuli. In the current study we confirm the asymmetric response pattern with song stimuli recorded close to and on both sides of the distinct acoustic boundary. Furthermore, we also show a previously unnoticed divergence in singing style between these two wood-wren species, which may contribute to an acoustically guided barrier to hybridization in this secondary contact zone.
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