Cooper IA, Gilman RT & Boughman JW. (2011) Sexual dimorphism and speciation on two ecological coins: patterns from nature and theoretical predictions. Evolution.
Adaptive divergence of phenotypes, such as sexual dimorphism or adaptive speciation, can result from disruptive selection via competition for limited resources. Theory indicates that speciation and sexual dimorphism can result from identical ecological conditions, but co-occurrence is unlikely because whichever evolves first should dissipate the disruptive selection necessary to drive evolution of the other. Here, we consider ecological conditions in which disruptive selection can act along multiple ecological axes. Speciation in lake populations of threespine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) has been attributed to disruptive selection due to competition for resources. Head shape in sticklebacks is thought to reflect adaptation to different resource acquisition strategies. We measure sexual dimorphism and species variation in head shape and body size in stickleback populations in two lakes in British Columbia, Canada. We find that sexual dimorphism in head shape is greater than interspecific differences. Using a numerical simulation model that contains two axes of ecological variation, we show that speciation and sexual dimorphism can readily co-occur when the effects of loci underlying sexually dimorphic traits are orthogonal to those underlying sexually selected traits.