The origin and evolution of positive assortative mating in the actively speciating subterranean mole rats of the Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies in Israel, may be deciphered by comparing female mate preference in the laboratory between ancestral and derivative species. Estrous females of the recent derivative of speciation (chromosomal species 2n = 60) showed trimodal mate preference distribution significantly differing from a normal curve. Females consisted of three phenotypes, comprising negative, low positive, and high positive preference for homospecific males. By contrast, mate preference in encounters of ancestral species (2n = 52, 54, and 58) showed a prevalence of a positive homospecific mate preference. It is suggested that the three modal distribution is explicable even on the basis of one major gene with three genotypes. The evolution of ethological reproductive isolation proceeded presumably from a high polymorphism in the most recent derivative of speciation towards increasing monomorphism of positive assortative mating among ancestral species. If an assortative mating locus combines with sexual selection of the frequent male adapted optimally to the local environment, then speciation and adaptation will be tightly linked in the evolution of mole rats.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This researchw as supportedb y grants from the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) Jerusalem, Israel. We thank M. Avrahami and S. Simson for field assistance;E . Golenbergf or commentingo n the manuscript;a nd Ayala Cohen for statistical advice.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics