Post-mating reproductive barriers in two unidirectionally hybridizing sunfish (Centrarchidae: Lepomis)

S. Immler, M. B. Hamilton, N. J. Poslusny, T. R. Birkhead, J. M. Epifanio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The evolutionary sequence of events in the evolution of reproductive barriers between species is at the core of speciation biology. Where premating barriers fail, post-mating barriers, such as conspecific sperm precedence (CSP), gamete incompatibility (GI) and hybrid inviability (HI) may evolve to prevent the production of (often) costly hybrid offspring with reduced fitness. We tested the role of post-mating mechanisms for the reproductive isolation between two sunfish species [bluegill (BG) Lepomis macrochirus and pumpkinseed (PS) Lepomis gibbosus] and their first-generation hybrids. Performing in vitro sperm competition experiments, we observed asymmetric CSP as main post-mating isolation mechanism when BG and PS sperm were competing for PS eggs, whereas when sperm from both species were competing for BG eggs it was HI. Furthermore, hybrid sperm - although fertile in the absence of competition - were outcompeted by sperm of either parental species. This result may at least partly explain previous observations that natural hybridization in the study system is unidirectional.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-120
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Conspecific sperm precedence
  • Fish
  • Reproductive isolation
  • Sperm competition
  • Unidirectional hybridization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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