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Human activities may weaken or destroy reproductive isolation between young taxa, leading to their fusion with consequences for population and community ecology. Pea aphid host races are adapted to different legume taxa, providing a degree of pre-mating isolation mediated by habitat choice. Yet, all races can feed and reproduce on the broad bean (Vicia faba), a major crop which represents a 'universal host plant', which can promote hybridization between races. Here, we ask if pea aphid host races have reproductive barriers which prevent or reduce gene flow when they co-occur on the universal host plant. We observed mating behaviour, female survival, number of eggs and egg fertilization rates for three types of crosses: among individuals of the same host race, between closely related host races and between distantly related host races. We did not find significant differences in mating behaviour and female survival among the three types of crosses. However, we observed a drastic reduction in the number of eggs laid, and in the number of fertilized eggs, in distant crosses. We conclude that widespread broad bean cultivation in agriculture may predispose closely related-but not distantly related-host races to hybridize, disrupting reproductive isolation between incipient species.

Original publication




Journal article


Biol Lett

Publication Date





hybridization, intrinsic pre-zygotic reproductive isolation, pea aphid host races, speciation, speciation reversal, universal host plant, Animals, Aphids, Female, Gene Flow, Hybridization, Genetic, Male, Oviposition, Phylogeny, Reproductive Isolation