Sexual conflict does not drive reproductive isolation in experimental populations of Drosophila pseudoobscura


Rhonda R. Snook, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, Alfred Denny Building, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK.
Tel.: 44 114 222 0126; fax: 44 144 222 002; e-mail:


Sexual conflict has been predicted to drive reproductive isolation by generating arbitrary but rapid coevolutionary changes in reproductive traits among allopatric populations. A testable prediction of this proposal is that allopatric populations experiencing different levels of sexual conflict should exhibit different levels of reproductive isolation. We tested this prediction using experimentally evolved populations of the promiscuous Drosophila pseudoobscura. We manipulated sexual conflict by enforcing either monogamy, maintaining natural levels of promiscuity, or elevating promiscuity. Within each treatment, we carried out sympatric and allopatric crosses using replicated populations and examined pre-zygotic (number of mating pairs, mating speed and copulation duration) and post-zygotic (hybrid inviability and sterility) indicators of reproductive isolation. After 50 generations of selection, none of the measures conformed to predictions of sexual conflict driving reproductive isolation. Our results cannot be explained by lack of genetic variation or weak selection and suggest that sexual conflict may not be a widespread engine of speciation.