Current Zoology(formerly Acta Zoologica Sinica),    2013, 59(1): 20 - 30
Title: Asymmetrical mate preference in recently adapted White Sands and black lava populations of Sceloporus undulatus
Authors: Kayla M. HARDWICK, Jeanne M. ROBERTSON, Erica Bree ROSENBLUM
 D e p a r t m e n t   o f   B i o l o g i c a l   S c i e n c e s ,   U n i v e r s i t y   o f   I d a h o ,   U S A 

Speciation can proceed rapidly when natural and sexual selection act in concert. For example speciation can be accelerated when traits that confer a selective advantage in a particular habitat also influence mate preference. Studying parallel but evolutionarily independent instances of ecological divergence can illuminate the interaction between natural and sexual selection during speciation. Locally adapted populations of the eastern fence lizard Sceloporus undulatus have recently evolved in three different habitats in the Chihuahuan desert: blanched color morphs occur on the gypsum dunes of White Sands, melanic color morphs occur on the Carrizozo lava flow, and brown color morphs occur in the surrounding desert scrubland. In addition to differences in cryptic dorsal coloration, populations also differ in the size and color of ventral patches used for social signaling. This system therefore provides an opportunity to investigate the interplay of natural and sexual selection during rapid ecological speciation. We used mate preference experiments to determine whether locally adapted populations may exhibit the early stages of behavioral reproductive isolation. We observed an asymmetrical mate preference in this system; White Sands males preferentially courted local females, while males from dark soils and black lava populations did not exhibit a preference for local mates. We also found that female behavior and ventral patch phenotype were associated with male courtship. Our results suggest that the observed preference for local mates evolved at White Sands, and we discuss the possible link between local adaptation and traits involved in mate preference in this system [Current Zoology 59 (1): 20–30, 2013].


Keywords: Eastern fence lizard, Magic trait, Ecological speciation, Sexual signaling, Courtship, Mate preference asymmetry

*Correspondence should be addressed to Erica Bree ROSENBLUM (

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