Incomplete Reproductive Isolation in the Blue Mussel (Mytilus edulis and M. trossulus) Hybrid Zone in the Northwest Atlantic: Role of Gamete Interactions and Larval Viability

Miranda, MBB, Innes, DJ and Thompson, RJ (2010)

BIOLOGICAL BULLETIN  218(3): 266-281.

Key Words: Speciation, hybridization, reproductive isolation, prezygotic, postzygotic, fertilization success

Abstract: Reproductive isolation in free-spawning organisms may involve only small changes in the gamete surface molecules that control fertilization, linking gamete incompatibility and speciation. Most studies have focused on species in which natural hybrids are absent and reproductive isolation is complete, but how gamete incompatibility evolves remains unclear. Reproductive isolation is incomplete between two sympatric mussel species (Mytilus edulis, M. trossulus) that hybridize in nature. In this study prezygotic and postzygotic components of reproductive incompatibility were examined in laboratory crosses. Conspecific crosses showed significantly greater rates of fertilization than heterospecific crosses, although some females of both species showed heterospecific gamete compatibility. The proportion of fertilized eggs developing into normal larvae was not significantly different between conspecific and heterospecific crosses, but survival of normal larvae was greater for conspecific crosses. Mixed-species sperm experiments suggested that conspecific sperm preference may further limit hybridization. The different components of reproductive incompatibility and total incompatibility varied among females of both species. Although our study has shown that partial reproductive isolation between M. edulis and M. trossulus involves both prezygotic gamete interactions and postzygotic larval survival, further research is required to determine the potential role of gamete incompatibility in the evolution of complete reproductive isolation between these species.