Working Group

An integrative evolutionary approach to examine sexual selection as a mechanism of speciation

PI(s): Rebecca Safran (University of Colorado)
Albert Uy (Syracuse University)
Start Date: 1-Jun-2009
End Date: 31-Mar-2011
Keywords: sexual selection, speciation, comparative methods

As evidenced by the growing number of publications and funded studies, the role that sexual selection can play in the process of speciation has gained widespread attention. However, empirical data are rapidly accumulating without a very clear theoretical framework for the likely role of sexual selection in the evolution of reproductive isolation. Our aim is to gain a comprehensive understanding of how divergent sexual selection can drive speciation by synthesizing published theoretical, empirical and comparative studies. First, theory related to the role that sexual selection can play in species formation need to be refined to offer very explicit predictions for both empirical and comparative data sets, especially accounting for the likely importance of sexual signals from different modalities (e.g., acoustic and visual signals). Second, to test for 'signatures' of a contributing role of sexual selection in speciation, we will work on a formal comparison of characteristics of signals that have diverged between sympatric and allopatric populations using easily accessible resources and our own data. Finally, we will conduct new comparative analyses bearing in mind the most likely sexual signals that are important for maintaining reproductive isolation; there are many phylogenies available for robust comparisons across a diversity of taxonomic groups. We are a diverse group of primarily early-career researchers many of whom have current NSF funding to examine the role of sexual selection in speciation. We plan to divide our larger working group into smaller sub-sets to efficiently make progress on all three objectives in the proposed two-year period.

Related products

Publications
  • Variation in the temporal and spatial use of signals and its implications for multimodal communication J. Albert C. Uy and Rebecca J. SafranVariation in the temporal and spatial use of signals and its implications for multimodal communication, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, volume 67, issue 9, pp. 1499-1511
  • Diversification under sexual selection: the relative roles of mate preference strength and the degree of divergence in mate preferences Rafael L. Rodríguez, Janette W. Boughman, David A. Gray, Eileen A. Hebets, Gerlinde Höbel, Laurel B. Symes and Greg GretherDiversification under sexual selection: the relative roles of mate preference strength and the degree of divergence in mate preferences, Ecology Letters, volume 16, issue 8, pp. 964-974
  • Evolutionary divergence in acoustic signals: causes and consequences Matthew R. Wilkins, Nathalie Seddon and Rebecca J. Safran. 2013, Evolutionary divergence in acoustic signals: causes and consequences, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, volume 28, issue 3, pp. 156-166
  • A robust new metric of phenotypic distance to estimate and compare multiple trait differences among populations Safran R.J., Flaxman, S.M, Kopp, M, Irwin, D.E., Briggs, D., Evans, M.R., Funk, W.C., Gray, D.A. Hebets, E.A., Seddon, N., Scordato, E., Symes, L.B., Tobias, J.A., Toews, D.P.L., Uy, J.A.C. 2012. A robust new metric of phenotypic distance to estimate and compare multiple trait differences among populations. Invited for Special Theme Issue on Sexual Selection and Speciation, Current Zoology 58: 423-436.
  • Hebets, E. A. 2011 Current status and future directions of research in complex signaling. Current Zoology 57: I-V. Hebets, E. A. 2011 Current status and future directions of research in complex signaling. Current Zoology 57: I-V.
  • Hebets, E.A. , J. A. Stafstrom, R. L. Rodriguez, and D. J. Wilgers. 2011. Enigmatic ornamentation relieves male reliance on courtship performance for mating success. Animal Behaviour 81: 963 – 972. Hebets, E.A. , J. A. Stafstrom, R. L. Rodriguez, and D. J. Wilgers. 2011. Enigmatic ornamentation relieves male reliance on courtship performance for mating success. Animal Behaviour 81: 963 – 972.
  • Servedio, M.R., G.S. Van Doorn, M. Kopp, A.M. Frame, and P. Nosil. 2011. in press Magic traits, pleiotropy, and effect sizes: reply to Haller et al. Servedio, M.R., G.S. Van Doorn, M. Kopp, A.M. Frame, and P. Nosil. 2011. in press Magic traits, pleiotropy, and effect sizes: reply to Haller et al. Trends in Ecology and Evolution
  • Servedio, M.R., G.S. Van Doorn, M. Kopp, A.M. Frame, and P. Nosil. 2011. in press Magic traits, pleiotropy, and effect sizes: reply to Haller et al. Servedio, M.R., G.S. Van Doorn, M. Kopp, A.M. Frame, and P. Nosil. 2011. in press Magic traits, pleiotropy, and effect sizes: reply to Haller et al. Trends in Ecology and Evolution
  • Magic traits in speciation: ‘1 magic’ but not rare? Speciation with gene flow is greatly facilitated when traits subject to divergent selection also contribute to non-random mating. Such traits have been called ‘magic traits’, which could be interpreted to imply that they are rare, special, or unrealistic. Here, we question this assumption by illustrating that magic traits can be produced by a variety of mechanisms, including ones in which reproductive isolation arises as an automatic by product of adaptive divergence. We also draw upon the theoretical literature to explore whether magic traits have a unique role in speciation or can be mimicked in their effects by physically linked trait complexes. We conclude that magic traits are more frequent than previously perceived, but further work is needed to clarify their importance.
Proposals and Grants
  • Safran. NSF Grant - CAREER DEB ($850,000, 2012 – 2017) Isolation by Distance or Adaptation: The extent of population genomic differentiation that results from adaptive divergence in sexual signals and migratory behavior. PI: Safran (sole).
  • Rodriguez. (NSF Grant IOS–1120790 ($530,000, 2011–2014). Testing the role of sexual selection by mate choice in promoting divergent local adaptation. (With KD Fowler–Finn).)