Few data are available on the effectiveness of reproductive isolating mechanisms in externally fertilizing taxa. I investigated patterns of conspecific and heterospecific fertilization among three coexisting sea urchin species, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, S. franciscanus, and S. purpuratus. In the laboratory, both among and within species, eggs from individual females whose eggs are more easily fertilized by conspecific sperm are also most susceptible to heterospecific fertilization. At one extreme, S. droebachiensis requires an order of magnitude fewer conspecific sperm to fertilize eggs than do the other two species and shows very little distinction between conspecific and heterospecific sperm in no choice experiments. Strongylocentrotus franciscanus has an intermediate susceptibility to fertilization by heterospecific sperm. At the other extreme, S. purpuratus rarely cross-fertilizes. Field observations indicate that S. droebachiensis is often surrounded by heterospecific sea urchins. Genetic analysis of larvae produced during heterospecific spawning events indicate that hybrids are generally produced if male conspecifics are more than 1 m from a spawning female S. droebachiensis. Laboratory cultures indicate that these hybrids suffer high mortality relative to conspecific larvae. Comparisons of reproductive success of S. droebachiensis during single-species and multispecies spawning events indicate that the benefits of producing easily fertilized eggs under conditions of sperm limitation may outweigh the costs of losing some offspring to hybrid fertilization. Patterns of variability in heterospecific fertilization are considered in light of three hypotheses: phylogenetic relatedness, reinforcement selection, and sexual selection.
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Vol. 56 • No. 8