There are many proposed routes for the origin of premating reproductive isolation, but few systematic studies aimed at testing their relative importance. Accumulated information about the biogeographical history of the European meadow grasshopper, Chorthippus parallelus, has allowed us to make a planned series of comparisons among populations aimed at distinguishing the contributions of some of these hypotheses. We have compared the effects on assortative mating of long-term isolation in glacial refugia, founder events during postglacial colonization, and sympatry with a closely related species. A likelihood-based analysis allowed us to separate effects of variation in male and female mating propensity among populations from variation in mate choice leading to assortative mating. All three effects contributed significantly to the overall variation in mating pattern in a set of 21 pairwise comparisons among seven populations. Male cuticular composition, but not other candidate signals, was significantly associated with the level of assortative mating. Of the hypotheses for the origin of reproductive isolation, only the predictions of the founder hypothesis explained a significant amount of the variation in assortative mating. This does not rule out the possiblity that there may be some other explanation. Having established the pattern of divergence, it is possible to generate hypotheses that explain our results at least as well as the founder hypothesis. However, because many such post hoc hypotheses are possible, they cannot be tested with this dataset. On this basis, our results favor the hypothesis that some aspect of the colonization process tends to accelerate divergence in mating signals leading to premating reproductive isolation. This could be accomplished through any one of several mechanisms. Colonization involves many bottlenecks as new populations are established at the edge of the range by long-distance migrants. Genetic effects may be important, but these bottlenecks may also alter the conditions under which mates are found and chosen, as suggested by Kaneshiro. At the same time, the colonizing populations may encounter novel environmental challenges.
Corresponding Editor: J. Mallet