Understanding the origin and maintenance of barriers to gene exchange is a central goal of speciation research. Hawaiian swordtail crickets (genus Laupala) represent one of the most rapidly speciating animal groups yet identified. Extensive acoustic diversity, strong premating isolation, and female preference for conspecific acoustic signals in laboratory phonotaxis trials have strongly supported divergence in mate recognition as the driving force behind the explosive speciation seen in this system. However, recent work has shown that female preference for conspecific male calling song does not extend to mate choice at close range among these crickets, leading to the hypothesis that additional sexual signals are involved in mate recognition and premating isolation. Here we examine patterns of variation in cuticular lipids among several species of Laupala from Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii. Results demonstrate (1) a rapid and dramatic evolution of cuticular lipid composition among species in this genus, (2) significant differences among males and females in cuticular lipid composition, and (3) a significant reduction in the complexity of cuticular lipid profiles in species from the Big Island of Hawaii as compared to two outgroup species from Maui. These results suggest that behavioral barriers to gene exchange in Laupala may be composed of multiple mate recognition signals, a pattern common in other cricket species.
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