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International Journal of Ecology
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 456374, 15 pages
Review Article

Ecological Adaptation and Speciation: The Evolutionary Significance of Habitat Avoidance as a Postzygotic Reproductive Barrier to Gene Flow

1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA
2Department of Biological Sciences, Advanced Diagnostics and Therapeutics, Environmental Change Initiative, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA
3Department of Biology, University of Iowa, 434A Biology Building, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA

Received 14 August 2011; Accepted 16 November 2011

Academic Editor: Rui Faria

Copyright © 2012 Jeffrey L. Feder et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Habitat choice is an important component of most models of ecologically based speciation, especially when population divergence occurs in the face of gene flow. We examine how organisms choose habitats and ask whether avoidance behavior plays an important role in habitat choice, focusing on host-specific phytophagous insects as model systems. We contend that when a component of habitat choice involves avoidance, there can be repercussions that can have consequences for enhancing the potential for specialization and postzygotic reproductive isolation and, hence, for ecological speciation. We discuss theoretical and empirical reasons for why avoidance behavior has not been fully recognized as a key element in habitat choice and ecological speciation. We present current evidence for habitat avoidance, emphasizing phytophagous insects, and new results for parasitoid wasps consistent with the avoidance hypothesis. We conclude by discussing avenues for further study, including other potential roles for avoidance behavior in speciation related to sexual selection and reinforcement.