Conspecific sperm precedence is a reproductive barrier between free-spawning marine mussels in the northwest atlantic mytilus hybrid zone

Lara K.J. Klibansky, Michael A. McCartney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Reproductive isolation at the gamete stage has become a focus of speciation research because of its potential to evolve rapidly between closely related species. Conspecific sperm precedence (CSP), a type of gametic isolation, has been demonstrated in a number of taxa, both marine and terrestrial, with the potential to play an important role in speciation. Free-spawning marine invertebrates are ideal subjects for the study of CSP because of a likely central role for gametic barriers in reproductive isolation. The western Atlantic Mytilus blue mussel hybrid zone, ranging from the Atlantic Canada to eastern Maine, exhibits characteristics conducive to the study of CSP. Previous studies have shown that gametic incompatibility is incomplete, variable in strength and the genotype distribution is bimodal-dominated by the parental species, with a low frequency of hybrids. We conducted gamete crossing experiments using M. trossulus and M. edulis individuals collected from natural populations during the spring spawning season in order to detect the presence or absence of CSP within this hybrid zone. We detected CSP, defined here as a reduction in heterospecific offspring from competitive fertilizations in vitro compared to that seen in non-competitive fertilizations, in five of the twelve crosses in which conspecific crosses were detectable. This is the first finding of CSP in a naturally hybridizing population of a freespawning marine invertebrate. Our findings support earlier predictions that CSP can promote assortative fertilization in bimodal hybrid zones, further advancing their hypothesized progression towards full speciation. Despite strong CSP numerous heterospecific fertilizations remain, reinforcing the hypothesis that compatible females are a source of hybrid offspring in mixed natural spawns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere108433
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 30 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Klibansky, McCartney.


Dive into the research topics of 'Conspecific sperm precedence is a reproductive barrier between free-spawning marine mussels in the northwest atlantic mytilus hybrid zone'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this