Divergence and reproductive isolation in the bushcricket Mecopoda elongata
Date: 18 February 2015
University of Exeter
PhD in Biological Sciences
The evolution of isolating mechanisms within a species population impedes gene flow. This allows isolated populations to diverge along different trajectories, which may ultimately lead to the formation of new species. Our attempts to understand the evolution of isolating barriers have benefited enormously from studies of divergent ...
The evolution of isolating mechanisms within a species population impedes gene flow. This allows isolated populations to diverge along different trajectories, which may ultimately lead to the formation of new species. Our attempts to understand the evolution of isolating barriers have benefited enormously from studies of divergent populations that are still recognized as members of the same species. The co-occurrence of five acoustically distinct populations of the bushcricket Mecopoda elongata in south India provided us with the opportunity to study one such divergence of sympatric populations of a single species. In sympatric populations that share identical ecology, sexual selection has the potential to play a prominent role in the maintenance of reproductive isolation. Based on a previous traditional morphometric study, Mecopoda elongata in India were thought to be a morphologically indistinguishable cryptic species complex. The lack of morphological divergence suggests a less significant role of ecology in the divergence of the group. One possibility is that songtypes may be maintained by the preference of Mecopoda elongate females for mating with a specific songtype. In this thesis I show that female phonotaxis to their ‘own’ call has the potential to contribute to behavioural isolation among the songtypes and in particular between two songtypes with overlapping temporal call parameters. This finding is supported by an independent no-choice mating experiment utilizing the same two songtypes. To investigate the cues other than song that Mecopoda elongata females’ may use to exercise preference for their own type, I examined the composition of cuticular lipids in the cuticle and the detailed structure of secondary sexual characters. I was able to differentiate all Mecopoda elongata songtypes with high probability based on CHC profiles and geometric morphometrics of the sub genital plate and cerci. My study reveals that divergence in sexual traits other than acoustic signals, although dramatically less obvious in nature, is present among Mecopoda elongata populations. This provides potential mechanisms for premating isolation among Mecopoda elongata songtypes in the wild suggesting that reproductive isolation is maintained by female preferences for male sexual signals. Additionally, I discovered a parasitoid Tachinid fly responsible for infecting three different songtypes of Mecopoda elongata, namely Double Chirper, Two Part and Helicopter. This Tachinid fly appears to have specialized hearing organ to track down calling Mecopoda elongata males throwing light on potential selection pressure and possible mechanism for Mecopoda elongata song divergence.
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