Evidence has been accumulating to support the process of reinforcement as a potential mechanism in speciation. In many species, mate choice decisions are influenced by cultural factors, including learned mating preferences (sexual imprinting) or learned mate attraction signals (e.g., bird song). It has been postulated that learning can have a strong impact on the likelihood of speciation and perhaps on the process of reinforcement, but no models have explicitly considered learning in a reinforcement context. We review the evidence that suggests that learning may be involved in speciation and reinforcement, and present a model of reinforcement via learned preferences. We show that not only can reinforcement occur when preferences are learned by imprinting, but that such preferences can maintain species differences easily in comparison with both autosomal and sex-linked genetically inherited preferences. We highlight the need for more explicit study of the connection between the behavioral process of learning and the evolutionary process of reinforcement in natural systems.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEvolutionary Ecology
Journal publication date2009

ID: 180415