Male behaviour drives assortative reproduction during the initial stage of secondary contact.
Heathcote RJP., While GM., MacGregor HEA., Sciberras J., Leroy C., D'Ettorre P., Uller T.
Phenotypic divergence in allopatry can facilitate speciation by reducing the likelihood that individuals of different lineages hybridize during secondary contact. However, few studies have established the causes of reproductive isolation in the crucial early stages of secondary contact. Here, we establish behavioural causes of assortative reproduction between two phenotypically divergent lineages of the European wall lizard (Podarcis muralis), which have recently come into secondary contact. Parentage was highly assortative in experimental contact zones. However, despite pronounced divergence in male phenotypes, including chemical and visual sexual signals, there was no evidence that females discriminated between males of the two lineages in staged interactions or under naturalistic free-ranging conditions. Instead, assortative reproduction was driven by male mate preferences and, to a lesser extent, male-male competition. The effects were more pronounced when the habitat structure promoted high lizard densities. These results emphasize that assortative reproduction can occur in the absence of female choice and that male behaviour may play an important role in limiting hybridization during the initial stages of secondary contact.