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Homoploid hybrid speciation has been recognized for its potential rapid completion, an idea that has received support from experimental and modeling studies. Following initial hybridization, the genomes of parental species recombine and junctions between chromosomal blocks of different parental origin leave a record of recombination and the time period before homogenization of the derived genome. We use detailed genetic maps of three hybrid species of sunflowers and models to estimate the time required for the stabilization of the new hybrid genome. In contrast to previous estimates of 60 or fewer generations, we find that the genomes of three hybrid sunflower species were not stabilized for hundreds of generations. These results are reconciled with previous research by recognizing that the stabilization of a hybrid species' genome is not synonymous with hybrid speciation. Segregating factors that contribute to initial ecological or intrinsic genetic isolation may become stabilized quickly. The remainder of the genome likely becomes stabilized over a longer time interval, with recombination and drift dictating the contributions of the parental genomes. Our modeling of genome stabilization provides an upper bound for the time interval for reproductive isolation to be established and confirms the rapid nature of homoploid hybrid speciation.
Rates of recombination vary considerably between species. Despite the significance of this observation for evolutionary biology and genetics, the evolutionary mechanisms that contribute to these interspecific differences are unclear. On fine physical scales, recombination rates appear to evolve rapidly between closely related species, but the mode and tempo of recombination rate evolution on the broader scale is poorly understood. Here, we use phylogenetic comparative methods to begin to characterize the evolutionary processes underlying average genomic recombination rates in mammals. We document a strong phylogenetic effect in recombination rates, indicating that more closely related species tend to have more similar average rates of recombination. We demonstrate that this phylogenetic signal is not an artifact of errors in recombination rate estimation and show that it is robust to uncertainty in the mammalian phylogeny. Neutral evolutionary models present good fits to the data and we find no evidence for heterogeneity in the rate of evolution in recombination across the mammalian tree. These results suggest that observed interspecific variation in average genomic rates of recombination is largely attributable to the steady accumulation of neutral mutations over evolutionary time. Although single recombination hotspots may live and die on short evolutionary time scales, the strong phylogenetic signal in genomic recombination rates indicates that the pace of evolution on this scale may be considerably slower.
The Red Queen hypothesis proposes that sex is maintained through selection pressure imposed by coevolving parasites: susceptible hosts are able to escape parasite pressure by recombining their genome to create resistant offspring. However, previous theoretical studies have shown that the Red Queen typically selects against sex unless selection is strong, arguing that high rates of recombination cannot evolve when parasites are of low virulence. Here we show that under the biologically plausible assumption of a severe fitness cost for parasites that fail to infect, the Red Queen can cause selection for high recombination rates, and that the strength of virulence is largely irrelevant to the direction of selection for increased recombination rates. Strong selection on parasites and short generation times make parasites usually better adapted to their hosts than vice versa and can thus favor higher recombination rates in hosts. By demonstrating the importance of host-imposed selection on parasites, our findings resolve previously reported conflicting results.
Evolvability, the ability of populations to adapt, can evolve through changes in the mechanisms determining genetic variation and in the processes of development. Here we construct and evolve a simple developmental model in which the pleiotropic effects of genes can evolve. We demonstrate that selection in a changing environment favors a specific pattern of variability, and that this favored pattern maximizes evolvability. Our analysis shows that mutant genotypes with higher evolvability are more likely to increase to fixation. We also show that populations of highly evolvable genotypes are much less likely to be invaded by mutants with lower evolvability, and that this dynamic primarily shapes evolvability. We examine several theoretical objections to the evolution of evolvability in light of this result. We also show that this result is robust to the presence or absence of recombination, and explore how nonrandom environmental change can select for a modular pattern of variability.
Genetic differentiation can be highly variable across the genome. For example, loci under divergent selection and those tightly linked to them may exhibit elevated differentiation compared to neutral regions. These represent “outlier loci” whose differentiation exceeds neutral expectations. Adaptive divergence can also increase genome-wide differentiation by promoting general barriers to neutral gene flow, thereby facilitating genomic divergence via genetic drift. This latter process can yield a positive correlation between adaptive phenotypic divergence and neutral genetic differentiation (described here as “isolation-by-adaptation”). Here, we examine both these processes by combining an AFLP genome scan of two host plant ecotypes of Timema cristinae walking-sticks with existing data on adaptive phenotypic divergence and ecological speciation in these insects. We found that about 8% of loci are outliers in multiple population comparisons. Replicated comparisons between population-pairs using the same versus different host species revealed that 1–2% of loci are subject to host-related selection specifically. Locus-specific analyses revealed that up to 10% of putatively neutral (nonoutlier) AFLP loci exhibit significant isolation-by-adaptation. Our results suggest that selection may affect differentiation directly, via linkage, or by facilitating genetic drift. They thus illustrate the varied and sometimes nonintuitive contributions of selection to heterogeneous genomic differentiation.
The paradoxical persistence of heritable variation for fitness-related traits is an evolutionary conundrum that remains a preeminent problem in evolutionary biology. Here we describe a simple mechanism in which social competition results in the evolutionary maintenance of heritable variation for fitness related traits. We demonstrate this mechanism using a genetic model with two primary assumptions: the expression of a trait depends upon success in social competition for limited resources; and competitive success of a genotype depends on the genotypes that it competes against. We find that such social competition generates heritable (additive) genetic variation for “competition-dependent” traits. This heritable variation is not eroded by continuous directional selection because, rather than leading to fixation of favored alleles, selection leads instead to allele frequency cycling due to the concerted coevolution of the social environment with the effects of alleles. Our results provide a mechanism for the maintenance of heritable variation in natural populations and suggest an area for research into the importance of competition in the genetic architecture of fitness related traits.
Recent research demonstrates how the occurrence of a preemptive competitor (Tamiasciurus) gives rise to a geographic mosaic of coevolution for crossbills (Loxia) and conifers. We extend these studies by examining ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), which produces more variable annual seed crops than the conifers in previous studies and often cooccurs with tree squirrels in the genus Sciurus that are less specialized than Tamiasciurus on conifer seed. We found no evidence of seed defenses evolving in response to selection exerted by S. aberti, which was apparently overwhelmed by selection resulting from inner bark feeding that caused many developing cones to be destroyed. In the absence of S. aberti, defenses directed at crossbills increased, favoring larger-billed crossbills and causing stronger reciprocal selection between crossbills and ponderosa pine. However, crossbill nomadism in response to cone crop fluctuations prevents localized reciprocal adaptation by crossbills. In contrast, evolution in response to S. griseus has incidentally defended cones against crossbills, limiting the geographic range of the interaction between crossbills and ponderosa pine. Our results suggest that annual resource variation does not prevent competitors from shaping selection mosaics, although such fluctuations likely prevent fine-scale geographic differentiation in predators that are nomadic in response to resource variability.
Many obligately intracellular symbionts exhibit a characteristic set of genetic changes that include an increase in substitution rates, loss of many genes, and apparent destabilization of many proteins and structural RNAs. Authors have suggested that these changes are due to increased mutation rates, or, more commonly, decreased effective population size due to population bottlenecks at the symbiont or, perhaps, host level. I propose that the increase in substitution rates and accumulation of deleterious mutations is a consequence of the population structure imposed on the endosymbionts by strict host association, loss of horizontal transmission and potentially conflicting levels of selection. I analyze a population genetic model of endosymbiont evolution, and demonstrate that substitution rates will increase, and the effect of those substitutions on endosymbiont fitness will become more deleterious as horizontal transmission among hosts decreases. Additionally, I find that there is a critical level of horizontal transmission below which natural selection cannot effectively purge deleterious mutations, leading to an expected loss of fitness over time. This critical level varies across loci with the degree of correlation between host and endosymbiont fitness, and may help explain differential retention and loss of certain genes.
Sperm size and number are important determinants of male reproductive success. The genus Drosophila exhibits a remarkable diversity of sperm production strategies, including the production of multiple sperm morphs by individual males, a phenomenon called sperm heteromorphism. Sperm-heteromorphic Drosophila species in the obscura group produce large numbers of infertile “parasperm” in addition to fertile eusperm. Parasperm have been hypothesized to perform a number of roles in place of fertilization, predominantly focused on their potential function in postcopulatory sexual selection. However, the evolutionary significance of parasperm remains unkn