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Contemporary hybrid speciation in sculpins (Cottus spp.)

Renaut, Sebastien
Molecular ecology 2011 v.20 no.7 pp. 1320-1321
Cottus, ancestry, animals, chromosome mapping, chromosome number, gene flow, genotype, habitats, hybridization, hybrids, landscapes, models, phenotype, rivers, secondary contact
Natural hybridization between closely related taxa is frequent in many organismal groups, yet it has long been perceived as a force preventing diversification and speciation, especially so in animals. In recent years, growing evidence in favour of hybridization facilitating adaptive divergence has accumulated (Mallet 2007; Mavárez & Linares 2008; Nolte & Tautz 2010). Homoploid hybrid speciation (the formation of hybrid lineages without changes in chromosome number) occurs when distinct species come into contact, hybridize, and at least in part of their range, produce hybrid swarms. If the hybrid genotypes can then colonize areas of the adaptive landscape inaccessible to ancestral species, they may eventually form new distinct lineages, reproductively isolated from their ancestors. Invasive sculpins (Cottus sp.) are one of a few good examples of homoploid hybrid speciation in animals. In this issue, Stemshorn et al. (2011) identified three distinct hybrid lineages, which have emerged out of a secondary contact situation of Cottus rhenanus and Cottus perifretum. Hybrids have recently invaded large river habitats unsuitable to ancestral species. Through the use of genetic mapping, the authors established that contrary to expectations, chromosomal rearrangements were not apparent in the hybrid lineages. In addition, different population genetic models were tested and the results suggest that contemporary gene flow from ancestral species represents an important component of the system. As such, recent and ongoing hybridization appears to be promoting the appearance of phenotypes adapted to novel environments. The examination of partially isolated lineages such as invasive hybrid sculpins should permit to identify early adaptive genetic changes before they become confounded by differences arising once speciation is complete.