The genetics of mate preferences in hybrids between two young and sympatric Lake Victoria cichlid species

Ola Svensson, Katie Woodhouse, Cock Van Oosterhout, Alan Smith, George F. Turner, Ole Seehausen

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The genetic architecture of mate preferences is likely to affect significant evolutionary processes, including speciation and hybridization. Here, we investigate laboratory hybrids between a pair of sympatric Lake Victoria cichlid fish species that appear to have recently evolved from a hybrid population between similar predecessor species. The species demonstrate strong assortative mating in the laboratory, associated with divergent male breeding coloration (red dorsum versus blue). We show in a common garden experiment, using DNA-based paternity testing, that the strong female mate preferences among males of the two species are fully recovered in a large fraction of their F2 hybrid generation. Individual hybrid females often demonstrated consistent preferences in multiple mate choice trials (more than or equal to five) across a year or more. This result suggests that female mate preference is influenced by relatively few major genes or genomic regions. These preferences were not changed by experience of a successful spawning event with a male of the non-preferred species in a no-choice single-male trial. We found no evidence for imprinting in the F2 hybrids, although the F1 hybrid females may have been imprinted on their mothers. We discuss this nearly Mendelian inheritance of consistent innate mate preferences in the context of speciation theory.
Original languageEnglish
Article number284
Pages (from-to)233-243
Number of pages11
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1849
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2017


  • assortative matinghybridizationPundamilia nyerereiPundamilia pundamiliasensory drivespeciation-with-gene-flow

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