Simulated evolution of mating signal diversification in a primate radiation

Sandra Winters, James P. Higham

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Divergence in allopatry and subsequent diversification of mating signals on secondary contact (reinforcement) is a major driver of phenotypic diversity. Observing this evolutionary process directly is often impossible, but simulated evolution can pinpoint key drivers of phenotypic variation. We developed evolutionary simulations in which mating signals, modelled as points in phenotype space, evolve across time under varying evolutionary scenarios. We model mate recognition signals in guenons, a primate radiation exhibiting colourful and diverse face patterns hypothesized to maintain reproductive isolation via mate choice. We simulate face pattern evolution across periods of allopatry and sympatry, identifying the role of key parameters in driving evolutionary endpoints. Results show that diversification in allopatry and assortative mate choice on secondary contact can induce rapid phenotypic diversification, resulting in distinctive (between species) and stereotyped (within species) face patterns, similar to extant guenons. Strong selection against hybrids is key to diversification, with even low levels of hybrid fitness often resulting in merged populations on secondary contact. Our results support a key role for reinforcement by assortative mating in the maintenance of species diversity and support the long-proposed prehistorical scenario for how such striking diversity was produced and maintained in perhaps the most colourful of all mammalian clades.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)20220734
    Number of pages1
    JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
    Issue number1977
    StatePublished - Jun 29 2022


    • assortative mating
    • guenons
    • hybridization
    • reinforcement
    • reproductive isolation

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
    • General Environmental Science
    • General Immunology and Microbiology
    • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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