Although the evolutionary importance of natural hybridization has been debated for decades, it has become increasingly clear that hybridization plays a fundamental role in the evolution of many plant and animal taxa, sometimes resulting in the formation of entirely new species. Although some hybrid species retain the base chromosome number of their parents, others combine the full chromosomal complements of their progenitors. Hybrid speciation can thus produce two fundamentally different types of evolutionary lineages, yet relatively little is known about the factors influencing ploidy level in hybrid neospecies. We estimated genetic divergence between species pairs that have given rise to homoploid and polyploid hybrid species and found that divergence is significantly greater for the parents of polyploids, even after controlling for potentially confounding factors. Our data thus provide the first direct evidence in support of the notion that the extent of genomic divergence between hybridizing species influences the likelihood of diploid versus polyploid hybrid speciation.
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Vol. 61 • No. 7