The gynogenetic Amazon molly (Poecilia formosa) is a clonal, all-female lineage of livebearing fish that faces an unusual obstacle to evolutionary persistence. Sperm from heterospecific males (either sailfin, P. latipinna, or Atlantic, P. mexicana, mollies) is necessary to trigger embryogenesis. However, none of the male's genes are incorporated into the genome of the gynogenetic offspring. Some investigators have proposed that the evolution of male mate discrimination is a result of this cost, leading to a coevolutionary arms race between male avoidance of P. formosa and P. formosa attractiveness. Given that P. formosa successfully reproduces and has not yet gone extinct, it is clear there are mechanisms by which they attract the sexual attention of males. Although a Red Queen coevolutionary process in typical host/parasite systems has been shown to favor the persistence of sexual species, in this system an arms race has been invoked to explain the reverse. Here I present behavioral data supporting a more parsimonious scenario: that mechanisms of attraction in P. formosa are simply a consequence of its hybrid origin. Poecilia latipinna and P. mexicana males do not discriminate between gynogenetic P. formosa females and first generation sexual hybrid females, and females do not differ in agonistic behaviors associated with competition for mates. Both results contradict predictions from the Red Queen hypothesis. Therefore, coevolution is not necessary to explain the apparent evolutionary persistence of P. formosa.
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Vol. 57 • No. 6