Learning processes potentially play a role in speciation but are often ignored in speciation models. Learning may, for instance, play a role when a new niche is being colonized, because the learning of niche features may cause niche-specific assortative mating and a tendency to produce young in this niche. Several animal species learn about their environmental features that may be important in finding or attracting mates. We use a gene-culture coevolutionary model to look into the effect of such learning on the colonization of new niches and on the genetic divergence between groups using different niches, which are steps necessary in achieving speciation. We assume that density is regulated separately in each of the two niches and that the viability of an individual depends on its genotype as well as on which niche it exploits. Our results show that genetic adaptation to the new niche is enhanced by a high female fecundity and a low viability selection against heterozygotes. Furthermore, when initial colonization (without genetic adaptation) fails, genetic divergence is more difficult when the mating preference is stronger. In contrast, when colonization without genetic adaptation is successful, a stronger mating preference makes genetic divergence easier. An increase in the number of egg-laying mistakes by females can have a positive or negative effect on the success of genetic adaptation depending on other parameters. We show that genetic divergence can be prevented by a niche shift, which can occur only if viabilities in the two niches are asymmetrical.
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