SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • hybrid speciation;
  • mate choice experiment;
  • nuclear DNA phylogeny;
  • sexual selection;
  • xeno-specific sexual selection;
  • Xiphophorus

Abstract

The swordlike exaggerated caudal fin extensions of male swordtails are conspicuous traits that are selected for through female choice. Swords are one of only few examples where the hypothesis of a pre-existing bias is believed to apply for the evolution of a male trait. Previous laboratory experiments demonstrated that females prefer males with longer swords and even females from some swordless species show an affiliation for males of sworded species. Earlier phylogenetic studies based on maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA placed the sworded southern swordtail Xiphophorus clemenciae with swordless platies, contradicting its morphology-based evolutionary affinities. The analyses of new nuclear DNA markers now recover its traditional phylogenetic placement with other southern swordtails, suggesting that this species was formed by an ancient hybridization event. We propose that sexual selection through female choice was the likely process of hybrid speciation, by mating of platy females with males of an ancestral swordtail lineage. In artificial crosses of descendent species from the two potential ancestral lineages of X. clemenciae the hybrid and backcross males have swords of intermediate lengths. Additionally, mate choice experiments demonstrate that hybrid females prefer sworded males. These experimental lines of evidence make hybridization through xeno-specific sexual selection by female choice the likely mechanism of speciation.