Evolution of mate choice: the trick behind the magic trait

Friday seminar by Sergey Gavrilets (NOTE THE TIME AND VENUE)

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Abstract

Non-random mating can provide multiple evolutionary benefits and can result in the origin of new species. Biological organisms are characterized by a myriad of different phenotypic characters many of which can serve as mating cues.

Which traits are more likely to be coopted as such cues is an open question. However recent work on ecological speciation unexpectedly suggests that "magic traits" (i.e. phenotypic traits simultaneously involved in both local adaptation and mating decisions) are much more common than previously thought. Here we study a series of simple mathematical models in an attempt to shed light on the questions about which phenotypic traits are more likely to be used in mating decisions and about the characteristics of the process of co-option of phenotypic traits as mating cues. We consider six different mechanisms of non-random mating acting in isolation or simultaneously under three different ecological scenarios (adaptive radiation, reinforcement, and niche invasion). We show that traits that are under direct natural selection are more likely to be used in mating decisions leading to the appearance of magic traits. We argue that selectively neutral "marker" traits are unlikely to be used in mating decisions. We show that multiple mechanisms of non-random mating can interact in a synergistic way. We discuss the time scales involved in the evolution of different types of non-random mating. We conclude that the presence of magic traits can be viewed as a signature of ecological selection acting during the origin of new species.

Sergey Gavrilets

Distinguished Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Mathematics
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Department of Mathematics
University of Tennessee

Associate Director for Scientific Activities
National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis
University of Tennessee

Published Sep. 21, 2012 4:39 PM - Last modified Oct. 29, 2012 2:30 PM