The sea squirt Ciona intestinalis species complex is a widely used model system for genomics and developmental biology, as well as ecology. Contrary to previous reports, here we show no difference in the success of development and hatching between hybrid and conspecific crosses between the two species within this complex known as types A and B, from a region in the English Channel where they are sympatric. We grew laboratory hybrids in the field for three months, and successfully obtained reproductive adults. In back-crosses of F1 laboratory hybrids to parental types, normal larvae were obtained. We conclude that hybrid crosses generate viable offspring and the resulting hybrids are interfertile with types A and B. However we also show that introgression in the natural sympatric population remains low. We discuss possible pre-zygotic and post-zygotic mechanisms which reproductively isolate these species.
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Vol. 31 • No. 6