Interspecific interactions and learning variability jointly drive geographic differences in mate preferences

Machteld N. Verzijden, Erik I. Svensson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Co-occurrence of closely related species can cause behavioral interference in mating and increase hybridization risk. Theoretically, this could lead to the evolution of more species-specific mate preferences and sexual signaling traits. Alternatively, females can learn to reject heterospecific males, to avoid male sexual interference from closely related species. Such learned mate discrimination could also affect conspecific mate preferences if females generalize from between species differences to prefer more species-specific mating signals. Female damselflies of the banded demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) learn to reject heterospecific males of the beautiful demoiselle (C. virgo) through direct premating interactions. These two species co-occur in a geographic mosaic of sympatric and microallopatric populations. Whereas C. virgo males have fully melanized wings, male C. splendens wings are partly melanized. We show that C. splendens females in sympatry with C. virgo prefer smaller male wing patches in conspecific males after learning to reject heterospecific males. In contrast, allopatric C. splendens females with experimentally induced experience with C. virgo males did not discriminate against larger male wing patches. Wing patch size might indicate conspecific male quality in allopatry. Co-occurrence with C. virgo therefore causes females to prefer conspecific male traits that are more species specific, contributing to population divergence and geographic variation in female mate preferences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1896-1903
Number of pages8
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Aug 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Evolutionary Biology

Free keywords

  • Damselfly
  • geographic variation
  • insect
  • learning
  • mating behavior
  • sexual selection


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