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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reproductive isolation between two co-existing populations of stickleback (Gasterosteus) in Enos Lake, Vancouver Island Ridgway, Mark S.


Morphological, biochemical, and trophic evidence from other studies indicate that two populations of stickleback (Gasterosteus) co-exist in Enos Lake, Vancouver Island. One population is limnetic and the other is benthic (the names allude to their foraging behaviour and use of space). In this study, field observations, mate selection experiments, and courtship behaviour experiments were conducted to determine if the two stickleback populations are reproductively isolated. When breeding, limnetic males develop red throats whereas benthic males become uniformly black. In the field limnetic and benthic males nest in different habitats. Despite this difference, reproductive males and females of each population encountered each other, but in the few cases where courtship occurred, it never went beyond the initial stages of the lead-follow sequence. Apparently behavioural differences in courtship contributed to the break off of these natural courtships. In mate selection experiments, males and females of each population preferred mates from their own population. In the courtship experiments, behavioural differences between limnetics and benthics were found to be greatest in the early stages of courtship. With females from their own population, benthic males were more aggressive in their approach and leading sequences than limnetic males. In the beginning of the lead-follow phase, benthic females tend to position themselves above benthic males whereas limnetic females tend to position themselves alongside limnetic males. Male courtship behaviour was sometimes dependent on the phenotype of the female courted; benthic males bit and chased limnetic females whereas, limnetic males bit and led benthic females in a meandering path to the nest. Since the mate choice experiments indicated total positive assortative mating between limnetics and benthics, it is likely that the behavioural differences found in courtship behaviour contribute to reproductive isolation between the limnetic and benthic sticklebacks in Enos Lake.

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