Data from: Flexible mate choice may contribute to ecotype assortative mating in pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus)
Jarvis, Will M.C. et al. (2017), Data from: Flexible mate choice may contribute to ecotype assortative mating in pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus), Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.jc71g
Gene flow is expected to limit adaptive divergence but the ecological and behavioural factors that govern gene flow are still poorly understood, particularly at the earliest stages of population divergence. Reduced gene flow through mate choice (sexual isolation) can evolve even under conditions of subtle population divergence if intermediate phenotypes have reduced fitness. We indirectly tested the hypothesis that mate choice has evolved between coexisting littoral and pelagic ecotypes of polyphenic pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus) that have diverged in morphology and resource use and where intermediate phenotypes have reduced performance. We assessed the ecotype of nesting males and females using stable isotope estimates of diet and a divergent male morphological trait, oral jaw width. We found positive assortative mating between ecotypes in a common spawning habitat along exposed lake shorelines, but contrary to expectations, assortative mating was variably expressed between two sampling years. Although the factors that influence variable assortative mating remain unclear, our results are consistent with mate choice being expressed by ecotypes. Despite being variably expressed, mate choice will reduce gene flow between ecotypes and could contribute to further adaptive divergence depending on its frequency and strength in the population. Our findings add to a growing body of evidence indicating mate choice behaviour can be a plastic trait, an idea that should be more explicitly considered in empirical studies of mate choice as well as conceptual frameworks of mate choice evolution and adaptive divergence.