US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Proc. R. Soc. B (2007) 274, 399–406. DOI:10.1098/rspb.2006.3736


One proposed mechanism of speciation is divergent sexual selection, whereby divergence in female preferences and male signals results in behavioural isolation. Despite the appeal of this hypothesis, evidence for it remains inconclusive. Here, we present several lines of evidence that sexual selection is driving behavioural isolation and speciation among populations of an Amazonian frog (Physalaemus petersi). First, sexual selection has promoted divergence in male mating calls and female preferences for calls between neighbouring populations, resulting in strong behavioural isolation. Second, phylogenetic analysis indicates that populations have become fixed for alternative call types several times throughout the species’ range, and coalescent analysis rejects genetic drift as a cause for this pattern, suggesting that this divergence is due to selection. Finally, gene flow estimated with microsatellite loci is an average of 30 times lower between populations with different call types than between populations separated by a similar geographical distance with the same call type, demonstrating genetic divergence and incipient speciation. Taken together, these data provide strong evidence that sexual selection is driving behavioural isolation and speciation, supporting sexual selection as a cause for speciation in the wild.