Sexual selection driving display trait divergence has been suggested as a cause of rapid speciation, but there is limited supporting evidence for this from natural populations. Where speciation by sexual selection has occurred in newly diverged populations, we expect that there will be significant differences in female preferences and corresponding male display traits in the absence of substantial genetic and other morphological differentiation. Two allopatric populations of the Vogelkop bowerbird, Amblyornis inornatus, show large, qualitative differences in a suite of display traits including bower structure and decorations. We experimentally demonstrate distinct male decoration color preferences within each population, provide direct evidence of female preferences for divergent decoration and bower traits in the population with more elaborate display, and show that there is minimal genetic differentiation between these populations. These results support the speciation by sexual selection hypothesis and are most consistent with the hypothesis that changes in male display have been driven by divergent female choice.
Corresponding Editor: P. Gowaty