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Keywords:

  • fitness surface;
  • hybrid zone;
  • Littorina saxatilis;
  • sexual selection;
  • speciation

Step clinal transitions in inherited character(s) between genetically distinct populations are usually referred to as hybrid zones. An example is found in the population of the intertidal snail Littorina saxatilis in Galicia (NW Spain). We studied the shape of the overall fitness surface for sexual selection in this hybrid zone, and the position of hybrids and pure morphs on this surface. We found that sexual divergent selection acted on a combination of phenotypic traits separating the pure morphs, and therefore that sexual selection contributed to morph differentiation. The average fitness of hybrids as a group was not significantly different from that of the pure morphs, but they did show divergent sexual selection in some traits. These results are in agreement with a model of divergent selection favouring both the pure morph as well as those hybrids most resembling each morph. The finding of divergent selection is remarkable because quadratic selection gradients are usually weak in nature.