Social and Ecological Causes of Variation in Mating Signals and Mate Preferences

Rafael L. Rodríguez, Darren Rebar & Kasey D. Fowler-Finn

Department of Biological Sciences, UW-Milwaukee,,
current address: Univ. of Cambridge,,
current address: St. Louis Univ.,

We are testing the hypothesis that social and ecological environments influence the expression of mating signals and mate preferences. Using members of the Enchenopa binotata treehopper species complex (Hemiptera: Membracidae), we are testing the interaction between social and host plant environments. We are examining how Annual Report 27 social groupings and host plants influence variation in male signals and female mate preferences, which have played an important role in speciation in these treehoppers. We are using a sample of treehopper full-sib families to estimate direct genetic variation, and we are using a sample of host plant clones to estimate indirect genetic variation. This captures the interaction between direct and indirect genetic components of variation. These patterns can then be compared with the magnitude of variation in signals and mate preferences among species in the complex. Our results point to considerable variation due to social and biotic environments, with interesting consequences for how speciation may begin. Funded by the National Science Foundation.