Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (MS)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Matthew Gilg

Second Advisor

Dr. Kelly Smith

Rights Statement

Third Advisor

Dr. Eric Johnson

Department Chair

Dr. Cliff Ross

College Dean

Dr. Barbara Hetrick


The closely related killifishes Fundulus heteroclitus and F. grandis hybridize in a small region where their ranges overlap in coastal northeastern Florida. Hybrids of these species are rare in frequency within the contact zone, suggesting the presence of relatively strong reproductive isolation between these species. The objective of this study was to elucidate barriers to reproduction between F. heteroclitus and F. grandis in the lab, as well as to quantify the relative strengths and contributions of various isolating barriers. Pre-zygotic (mating and fertilization) and post-zygotic (hatching) barriers were investigated by performing a variety of choice and no-choice laboratory mating experiments. The results revealed that under no-choice conditions, barriers to mating had the biggest influence on hybrid production in F. grandis, whereas hatching barriers contributed to the majority of reproductive isolation in F. heteroclitus. However, under choice conditions pre-zygotic barriers had the greatest influence on both species’ ability to produce hybrids. The total relative reproductive isolation that was observed in females of each species was stronger in F. heteroclitus than in F. grandis overall, and was nearly complete in F. heteroclitus females under choice conditions while moderate in F. grandis females. These results reveal an asymmetry in the potential gene flow between these two species, with F. grandis being more likely to hybridize than F. heteroclitus in the absence of environmental influences.