The role of Assortative Mating in the Initial Stages of Sympatric and Parapatric Speciation
Abstract: Divergence in the face of gene flow is perhaps the most wildly disputed subject among researchers through time. The debate is an old one and we find its origin as far back as the era of Darwin. The theories dealing with sympatric and parapatric speciation, its processes and ecological conditions, are numerous and the empirical data supporting the ideas is constantly growing. However, the reach of a consensus almost seem as distant as ever. Two fundamental prerequisites can be identified for the evolution of divergence with gene flow, the act of disruptive selection, and the development of assortative mating. A set of models in which speciation with gene flow seem particularly likely is when a shift occurs in host preference in phytophagous insects and mating takes place on the host. In the work behind this thesis, the role of assortative mating in the initial stages of sympatric and parapatric speciation has been studied, as has the interaction between assortative mating and inbreeding and how it effects speciation in small sympatric populations, an aspect not much attended to earlier in the literature. My results show that assortative mating based on resource preference, can evolve rapidly upon secondary contact, and even in parapatric populations with a migration rate of 8% (13-15 individuals) per generation. However for assortative mating to be maintained selection against hybrids is needed. My results also suggests that small inbred populations have a hard time coping with strong assortative mating an as a consequence tend to relax their mating preferences to avoid inbreeding depression. Based on these results, I advocate for the importance of considering not only assortative mating in itself, but also the joint effects of assortative mating and inbreeding when dealing with theories of speciation with gene flow.
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