Although there are theoretical reasons to suspect that gametic incompatibility may develop readily among populations of broadcast spawning marine invertebrates, there have been very few studies documenting geographic patterns of interpopulation incompatibility for any species. To address this we determined how successfully individuals of the intertidal serpulid polychaete, Galeolaria caespitosa, can cross-fertilize within and among populations from across temperate Australia. Fertilization assays revealed asymmetrical differences between very distantly located populations from different coasts, with near-complete incompatibility between eggs from Sydney with sperm from Adelaide, but the reverse cross (Adelaide eggs, Sydney sperm) was reasonably compatible. Although that pattern was congruent with a clear difference in Cytochrome B sequences between worms on the south and east coasts of Australia, we also detected some indication of interpopulation incompatibility within the genetic grouping on east coast, between two populations separated by only 220 km. We then assessed whether commonly proposed gametic compatibility arms-races could account for these patterns. Our results suggest reduced gametic compatibility may reduce a female's maximum fertilization potential, resulting in a cost to this potential mechanism for reducing polyspermy. Consequently, the apparently rapid development of reproductive barriers here seems unlikely to have been driven by arms-races involving sexual conflict over fertilization rate.
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Vol. 62 • No. 12