Quantitative analysis of gametic incompatibility between closely related species of neotropical sea urchins

Michael A. McCartney, H. A. Lessios

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    58 Scopus citations


    Species of the sea urchin genus Echinometra found on the two coasts of Panamá are recently diverged and only partially isolated by incomplete barriers to interspecific fertilization. This study confirms previous work that revealed incompatibility between the eggs of the Atlantic E. lucunter and the sperm of the other two neotropical species, whereas eggs of its sympatric congener E. viridis and allopatric E. vanbrunti are largely compatible with heterospecific sperm. Here we quantify fertilization using a range of sperm dilutions. We demonstrate a much stronger block to cross-species fertilization of E. lucunter eggs than was previously shown at fixed sperm concentrations, and mild incompatibility of the other two species' eggs where previous crosses between species were not distinguishable from within-species controls. Additionally, we present evidence for intraspecific variation in egg receptivity towards heterospecific sperm. Our findings here again discount the "reinforcement model" as a viable explanation for the pattern of prezygotic isolation. Gamete incompatibility in these Echinometra has appeared recently - within the last 1.5 million years - but is weaker in sympatry than in allopatry. Accidents of history may help explain why incompatibility of eggs emerged in one species and not in others. Compensatory sexual selection on sperm in this species could follow, and promote divergence of proteins mediating sperm-egg recognition.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)166-181
    Number of pages16
    JournalBiological Bulletin
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 2002


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