Reproductive isolation related to mimetic divergence in the poison frog Ranitomeya imitator

Evan Twomey, Jacob Schack Vestergaard, Kyle Summers

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In a mimetic radiation—when a single species evolves to resemble different model species—mimicry can drive within-species morphological diversification, and, potentially, speciation. While mimetic radiations have occurred in a variety of taxa, their role in speciation remains poorly understood. We study the Peruvian poison frog Ranitomeya imitator, a species that has undergone a mimetic radiation into four distinct morphs. Using a combination of colour–pattern analysis, landscape genetics and mate-choice experiments, we show that a mimetic shift in R. imitator is associated with a narrow phenotypic transition zone, neutral genetic divergence and assortative mating, suggesting that divergent selection to resemble different model species has led to a breakdown in gene flow between these two populations. These results extend the effects of mimicry on speciation into a vertebrate system and characterize an early stage of speciation where reproductive isolation between mimetic morphs is incomplete but evident.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4749
JournalNature Communications
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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