Sea urchins are widely used to study both fertilization and development. In this study we combine the two fields to examine the evolution of reproductive isolation in the genus Heliocidaris. Heliocidaris tuberculata develops indirectly via a feeding larva, whereas the only other species in the genus, H. erythrogramma, has evolved direct development through a nonfeeding larva. We estimated the time of divergence between H. erythrogramma and H. tuberculata from mitochondrial DNA divergence, quantified levels of gametic compatibility between the two species in cross-fertilization assays, and examined the mode of evolution of the sperm protein bindin by sequencing multiple alleles of the two species. Bindin is the major component of the sea urchin sperm acrosomal vesicle, and is involved in sperm-egg attachment and fusion. Based on our analyses, we conclude that: the two species of Heliocidaris diverged less than five million years ago, indicating that direct development can evolve rapidly in sea urchins; since their divergence, the two species have become gametically incompatible; Heliocidaris bindin has evolved under positive selection; and this positive selection is concentrated on the branch leading to H. erythrogramma. Three hypotheses can explain the observed pattern of selection on bindin: (1) it is a correlated response to the evolution of direct development in H. erythrogramma; (2) it is the result of an intraspecific process acting in H. erythrogramma but not in H. tuberculata; or (3) it is the product of reinforcement on the species that invests more energy into each egg to avoid hybridization.
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Vol. 57 • No. 10