Almost 30 years ago, A. C. Wilson and colleagues presented results indicating that hybrid inviability between species evolves 10 times faster in mammals than in birds and frogs. Here I revisit this question for birds and mammals using modern molecular data (mitochondrial cytochrome b DNA) and a more phylogenetically appropriate statistical approach. My analyses confirm that diverging mammals lose the ability to form viable hybrids faster than birds. To explain the difference in rates of evolutionary loss of hybridization potential, Wilson and coworkers proposed that mammals have higher rates of regulatory evolution, causing higher probabilities of developmental incompatibilities between mammal species. I briefly discuss this and other potential explanations.
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Vol. 58 • No. 8