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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jul 1974; 71(7): 2843–2847.
PMCID: PMC388568

Two Types of Molecular Evolution. Evidence from Studies of Interspecific Hybridization


To assess the significance of macromolecular sequence differences among species, we compared the serum albumins of 81 pairs of vertebrate species capable of producing viable hybrids. Micro-complement fixation experiments showed that the average difference between the albumins within such pairs was only 3 immunological distance units for placental mammals (31 pairs), but 36 units for frogs (50 pairs). Albumin immunological distance is strongly correlated with other measures of genetic distance, including those made with DNA annealing techniques. It therefore seems likely that mammalian species pairs capable of hybridization are far more similar at the macromolecular sequence level than is the case for most hybridizable frogs.

We think the most likely explanation for the marked molecular restriction on hybridization among mammals is that the ratio of regulatory evolution to protein evolution is higher for mammals than for frogs. Mammals may have experienced unusually rapid regulatory evolution; indeed, this could be the factor responsible for their unusually rapid anatomical evolution.

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Selected References

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