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Keywords:

  • behavioural isolation;
  • ecological speciation;
  • mate choice;
  • mating preferences;
  • premating isolation

Abstract

Significant assortative mating in laboratory studies has been previously shown between two populations of Drosophila melanogaster collected from micro-climactically contrasting and opposing slopes of ‘Evolution Canyon’ (Lower Nahal Oren, Israel; Korol et al., 2000). Coupled with evidence that the two populations are adapted to their respective environments, this has been suggested as a rare example of ongoing behaviourally mediated speciation occurring in the face of gene flow. Reproductive isolation between these populations, however, has never been confirmed by replicate experiments in an independent laboratory. For this reason, we tested recent collections of these populations for premating isolation in both the original (Haifa) and a new (Burnaby) laboratory under a variety of experimental protocols. Although non-random mating was found in the majority of trials conducted in Haifa, we were unable to replicate these strong results in Burnaby. Most notably, we failed to detect assortative mating in four separate double choice experiments. Significant non-random mating was detected, however, in three of six single choice experiments in Burnaby, suggesting that the populations are behaviourally differentiated in some manner. Why nonrandom mating was weaker in Burnaby than Haifa is not understood, but suggests that assortative mating may be sensitive to unknown environmental factors.