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Keywords:

  • Haldane' rule;
  • hybrid inviability;
  • hybrid sterility;
  • Lepidoptera;
  • speciation

Abstract I present patterns characterizing the evolution of intrinsic postzygotic isolation in Lepidoptera by analyzing data from the literature on genetic distance, strength of hybrid sterility and inviability, biogeography, and natural hybridization. Using genetic distance as a proxy for time, I investigate the time-course of the evolution of postzygotic isolation and the waiting times to particular hybrid fitness problems. The results show that postzygotic isolation increases gradually as species diverge, but that hybrid sterility evolves faster than hybrid inviability. The overwhelming preponderance of female-specific hybrid problems in Lepidoptera shows that Haldanea' rule (the preferential sterility or inviability of the heterogametic sex) is well obeyed. Together the rates and patterns characterizing the accumulation of postzygotic isolation allow several tests of the composite theory of Haldane's rule. Interestingly, comparing these data with those from Drosophila reveals that Haldane's rule for sterility evolves as fast (if not faster) in Lepidoptera. Finally, I show that a substantial fraction of sympatric species hybridizes in nature and that the majority of these suffer some level of hybrid sterility or inviability.