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Keywords:

  • Behavioral isolation;
  • Drosophila;
  • hybridization

Abstract

Gene exchange between species occurs in areas of secondary contact, where two species have the opportunity to hybridize. If heterospecific males are more common than conspecific males, females will experience more encounters with males of other species. These encounters might increase the likelihood of heterospecific matings, and lead to the production of hybrid progeny. I studied the mating behavior of two pairs of sibling species endemic to Africa: Drosophila yakuba/Drosophila santomea and Drosophila simulans/Drosophila sechellia. Drosophila yakuba and D. simulans are cosmopolitan species widely distributed in the African continent, while D. santomea and D. sechellia are island endemics. These pairs of species hybridize in nature and have the potential to exchange genes in natural conditions. I used these two pairs of Drosophila species, and constructed mating communities of different size and different heterospecific:conspecific composition. I found that both the total number of potential mates and the relative frequency of conspecific versus heterospecific males affect female mating decisions in the cosmopolitan species but not in the island endemics. These results suggest that the population characteristics, in which mating occurs, may affect the magnitude of premating isolation. Community composition might thus facilitate, or impair, gene flow between species.