The evolution of reproductive isolation in Daphnia

Tiffany A. Chin, Carla E. Cáceres, Melania E. Cristescu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The process by which populations evolve to become new species involves the emergence of various reproductive isolating barriers (RIB). Despite major advancements in understanding this complex process, very little is known about the order in which RIBs evolve or their relative contribution to the total restriction of gene flow during various stages of speciation. This is mainly due to the difficulties of studying reproductive isolation during the early stages of species formation. This study examines ecological and non-ecological RIB within and between Daphnia pulex and Daphnia pulicaria, two recently diverged species that inhabit distinct habitats and exhibit an unusual level of intraspecific genetic subdivision. Results: We find that while ecological prezygotic barriers are close to completion, none of the non-ecological barriers can restrict gene flow between D. pulex and D. pulicaria completely when acting alone. Surprisingly, we also identified high levels of postzygotic reproductive isolation in 'conspecific' interpopulation crosses of D. pulex. Conclusions: While the ecological prezygotic barriers are prevalent during the mature stages of speciation, non-ecological barriers likely dominated the early stages of speciation. This finding indicates the importance of studying the very early stages of speciation and suggests the contribution of postzygotic isolation in initiating the process of speciation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number216
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 27 2019


  • Daphnia pulex
  • Gene flow
  • Genetic incompatibilities
  • Postzygotic isolation
  • Prezygotic isolation
  • Speciation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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