Identifying the manner in which reproductive barriers accumulate during lineage divergence is central to establishing general principles of species formation. One outstanding question is which isolating mechanisms form the first complete barrier to gene flow in a given lineage or under a particular set of conditions. To identify these initial reproductive barriers requires examining lineages in very early stages of divergence, before multiple reproductive barriers have evolved to completion. We quantified the strength of three postmating barriers in a pair of darter species and compared these estimates to each other and to the strength of behavioral isolation (BI) reported in a previous study. Results reveal no evidence of gametic incompatibility but intermediate levels of conspecific sperm precedence and hybrid inviability. As BI is nearly complete, our analysis comparing the strength of multiple reproductive barriers implicates the evolution of mate choice as central to both the origin and maintenance of these species. Further examination of ecological isolation and hybrid sterility is necessary to determine the role of these barriers in darter speciation.
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