The role of founder effects on the evolution of reproductive isolation


  • D. R. Matute

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Human Genetics, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
    2. The Chicago Fellows Program, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
    • Correspondence: Daniel R. Matute, Department of Human Genetics, The University of Chicago, 920 East 58th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.

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Several theories argue that large changes in allele frequencies through genetic drift after a small founding population becomes allopatrically isolated can lead to significant changes in reproductive isolation and thus trigger the origin of new species. For this reason, founder speciation has been proposed as a potent force in the generation of new species. Nonetheless, the relative importance of such ‘founder effects’ remains largely untested. In this report, I used experimental evolution to create one thousand replicates that underwent an extreme bottleneck and to study whether founder effects can lead to an increase in reproductive isolation in Drosophila yakuba. Even though the most common outcome of inbreeding is extinction, founder effects can lead to increased premating reproductive isolation in a very small proportion of cases. Changes in reproductive isolation after a founding population bottleneck are similar to changes in other phenotypic traits, in which inbreeding might displace the mean phenotypic value and substantially increase the phenotypic variance. This increase in phenotypic variance does not confer an increase in the response to selection for reproductive isolation in artificial selection experiments, indicating that the increased phenotypic variance is not caused by increases in additive genetic variance. These results also demonstrate that, similar to morphological and life-history traits, behavioural traits can be affected by inbreeding and genetic drift.