Vocal divergence is concordant with genomic evidence for strong reproductive isolation in grasshopper mice (Onychomys)

Polly Campbell, Lena Arévalo, Heather Martin, Charles Chen, Shuzhen Sun, Ashlee H. Rowe, Michael S. Webster, Jeremy B. Searle, Bret Pasch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Behavioral barriers to gene flow often evolve faster than intrinsic incompatibilities and can eliminate the opportunity for hybridization between interfertile species. While acoustic signal divergence is a common driver of premating isolation in birds and insects, its contribution to speciation in mammals is less studied. Here we characterize the incidence of, and potential barriers to, hybridization among three closely related species of grasshopper mice (genus Onychomys). All three species use long-distance acoustic signals to attract and localize mates; Onychomys arenicola and Onychomys torridus are acoustically similar and morphologically cryptic whereas Onychomys leucogaster is larger and acoustically distinct. We used genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) to test for evidence of introgression in 227 mice from allopatric and sympatric localities in the western United States and northern Mexico. We conducted laboratory mating trials for all species pairs to assess reproductive compatibility, and recorded vocalizations from O. arenicola and O. torridus in sympatry and allopatry to test for evidence of acoustic character displacement. Hybridization was rare in nature and, contrary to prior evidence for O. torridus/O. arenicola hybrids, only involved O. leucogaster and O. arenicola. In contrast, laboratory crosses between O. torridus and O. arenicola produced litters whereas O. leucogaster and O. arenicola crosses did not. Call fundamental frequency in O. torridus and O. arenicola was indistinguishable in allopatry but significantly differentiated in sympatry, a pattern consistent with reproductive character displacement. These results suggest that assortative mating based on a long-distance signal is an important isolating mechanism between O. torridus and O. arenicola and highlight the importance of behavioral barriers in determining the permeability of species boundaries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12886-12896
Number of pages11
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • acoustic communication
  • behavioral isolation
  • contact zone
  • hybridization
  • reproductive character displacement
  • speciation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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