The increase in premating reproductive isolation between recently diverged and potentially interbreeding taxa resulting from selection against hybridization (reinforcement) is one of the most contentious issues in evolutionary biology. After many years of debate, its plausibility under various conditions has been shown by theoretical studies and some cases have been documented. At present, interest is arising about the frequency and importance of reinforcement in nature. Ochthebius quadricollis and Ochthebius sp. A are two hydraenid beetles inhabiting marine rock pools in the Mediterranean basin. By molecular analysis of a contact zone between the two species along the Italian Tyrrhenian coast, full reproductive isolation between the two species was evidenced. However, the finding of introgressed specimens at some diagnostic loci suggested that gene flow occurred in the past but then ceased. In this article, by analyzing species composition of mating couples collected in sympatric localities, we show the existence of strong assortative mating between the two species in nature. In laboratory multiple-choice mating trials, sympatric populations showed greater assortative mating than allopatric populations. Reinforcement is suggested as the most parsimonious hypothesis to explain the evolution of discriminative mate recognition systems occurring among O. quadricollis and Ochthebius sp. A under sympatric, but not allopatric, populations.
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Vol. 62 • No. 6