• Asymmetrical divergence;
  • house mouse;
  • mate preference;
  • parapatric hybridization;
  • premating isolation;
  • reinforcement;
  • reproductive character displacement


Our study addressed reproductive character displacement between two subspecies of the house mouse, Mus musculus musculus and Mus musculus domesticus that hybridize in Europe along a zone where selection against hybridization is known to occur. Based on a multi-population approach, we investigated spatial patterns of divergence of mate preference in the two taxa. Mate preference was significantly higher in the contact zone than in allopatry in both subspecies, suggesting that reproductive character displacement occurs. Moreover, patterns of preference were stronger in M. m. musculus than in M. m. domesticus, indicating an asymmetrical divergence between the two. In the context of selection against hybridization, our results may provide empirical support for the hypothesis of reinforcement in a parapatric hybrid zone. We discuss factors that could explain the asymmetrical pattern of divergence and the possible impact of a unimodal structure on the maintenance of premating divergence between the two subspecies.