Population differentiation often reflects a balance between divergent natural selection and the opportunity for homogenizing gene flow to erode the effects of selection. However, during ecological speciation, trait divergence results in reproductive isolation and becomes a cause, rather than a consequence, of reductions in gene flow. To assess both the causes and the reproductive consequences of morphological differentiation, we examined morphological divergence and sexual isolation among 17 populations of Timema cristinae walking-sticks. Individuals from populations adapted to using Adenostoma as a host plant tended to exhibit smaller overall body size, wide heads, and short legs relative to individuals using Ceonothus as a host. However, there was also significant variation in morphology among populations within host-plant species. Mean trait values for each single population could be reliably predicted based upon host-plant used and the potential for homogenizing gene flow, inferred from the size of the neighboring population using the alternate host and mitochondrial DNA estimates of gene flow. Morphology did not influence the probability of copulation in between-population mating trials. Thus, morphological divergence is facilitated by reductions in gene flow, but does not cause reductions in gene flow via the evolution of sexual isolation. Combined with rearing data indicating that size and shape have a partial genetic basis, evidence for parallel origins of the host-associated forms, and inferences from functional morphology, these results indicate that morphological divergence in T. cristinae reflects a balance between the effects of host-specific natural selection and gene flow. Our findings illustrate how data on mating preferences can help determine the causal associations between trait divergence and levels of gene flow.
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Vol. 58 • No. 1