Lackey ACR & Boughman JW (2013) Loss of premating isolation in a species pair of threespine sticklebacks. Current Zoology. 59: 591-603.
One approach to understand the importance of reproductive barriers to the speciation process is to study the breakdown of barriers between formerly distinct species. One reproductive barrier, sexual isolation, reduces gene flow between species through differences in mate preferences and mating signals and is likely important for species formation and maintenance. We measure sexual isolation in two limnetic-benthic threespine stickleback species pairs (Gasterosteus spp.). One species pair maintains strong reproductive isolation while the other species pair has recently collapsed into a hybrid swarm. We compare the strength of sexual isolation in the hybridizing pair to the currently isolated pair. We provide the first evidence that sexual isolation has been lost in the hybridizing pair and show furthermore that preferences females have for conspecific mates and the traits they use to distinguish conspecific and heterospecific males contribute to this loss. This work highlights the fragility of reproductive isolation between young species pairs and considers the role of sexual isolation in speciation.