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Faster fertilization rate in conspecific versus heterospecific matings in house mice.

Evolution; international journal of organic evolution (2008-08-30)
Matthew D Dean, Michael W Nachman
ABSTRACT

Barriers to gene flow can arise at any stage in the reproductive sequence. Most studies of reproductive isolation focus on premating or postzygotic phenotypes, leaving the importance of differences in fertilization rate overlooked. Two closely related species of house mice, Mus domesticus and M. musculus, form a narrow hybrid zone in Europe, suggesting that one or more isolating factors operate in the face of ongoing gene flow. Here, we test for differences in fertilization rate using laboratory matings as well as in vitro sperm competition assays. In noncompetitive matings, we show that fertilization occurs significantly faster in conspecific versus heterospecific matings and that this difference arises after mating and before zygotes form. To further explore the mechanisms underlying this conspecific advantage, we used competitive in vitro assays to isolate gamete interactions. Surprisingly, we discovered that M. musculus sperm consistently outcompeted M. domesticus sperm regardless of which species donated ova. These results suggest that in vivo fertilization rate is mediated by interactions between sperm, the internal female environment, and/or contributions from male seminal fluid. We discuss the implications of faster conspecific fertilization in terms of reproductive isolation among these two naturally hybridizing species.

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