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Colour pattern as a single trait driving speciation in Hypoplectrus coral reef fishes? ()

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Theory shows that speciation in the presence of gene flow occurs only under narrow conditions. One of the most favourable scenarios for speciation with gene flow is established when a single trait is both under disruptive natural selection and used to cue assortative mating. Here, we demonstrate the potential for a single trait, colour pattern, to drive incipient speciation in the genus Hypoplectrus (Serranidae), coral reef fishes known for their striking colour polymorphism. We provide data demonstrating that sympatric Hypoplectrus colour morphs mate assortatively and are genetically distinct. Furthermore, we identify ecological conditions conducive to disruptive selection on colour pattern by presenting behavioural evidence of aggressive mimicry, whereby predatory Hypoplectrus colour morphs mimic the colour patterns of non-predatory reef fish species to increase their success approaching and attacking prey. We propose that colour-based assortative mating, combined with disruptive selection on colour pattern, is driving speciation in Hypoplectrus coral reef fishes.


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