A direct experimental test of founder-flush effects on the evolutionary potential for assortative mating

Jennifer L. Regan, University of Southern Mississippi
LM Meffert
EH Bryant


Founder-flush speciation models propose that population bottlenecks can enhance evolutionary potential for reproductive isolation. To test this prediction, we subjected bottlenecked (three-pair founder-flush) and nonbottlenecked populations of the housefly to 18 generations of selection for assortative mating. After the selection regime, we analysed videotaped courtship bouts in these lines to identify correlated responses to the selection protocol. The realized heritabilities for assortative mating for both the bottlenecked and nonbottlenecked treatments were very low, but still significant. The founder-flush populations had thus responded to selection as well as the nonbottlenecked populations, although not significantly greater (i.e. total increases in assortative mating were 9.6 and 8.6%, respectively). Multivariate analyses on the courtship repertoires found that, although both bottlenecked and nonbottlenecked treatments attained similar levels of assortative mating, the treatments exhibited different evolutionary solutions in their correlated responses. Specifically, the bottlenecked lines demonstrated a significantly more diverse set of evolutionary trajectories (i.e. significant shifts along the second principal component for courtship). This suggests that the bottlenecked lines had greater potential for the evolution of novel phenotypes as predicted by founder-induced speciation models. Our results, however, cannot distinguish whether the more variable evolutionary responses resulted from increased heritabilities in courtship components, reduced potential to follow the convergent evolutionary trajectories noted for the nonbottlenecked lines, or some combination of both general processes in determining the resultant multivariate phenotype.