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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2006 Nov;41(2):395-404. Epub 2006 Jun 3.

Hybrid origin of the Pliocene ancestor of wild goats.

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  • 1UMR 5202-Origine, Structure et Evolution de la Biodiversité, Département Systématique et Evolution, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Case postale No. 51, 55 rue Buffon, 75005 Paris, France.


Recent theories on speciation suggest that interspecific hybridization is an important mechanism for explaining adaptive radiation. According to this view, hybridization can promote the rapid transfer of adaptations between different species; the hybrid population thus invades new habitats and diversifies into a variety of new species. Although hybridization is well accepted as a fairly common mechanism for diversification in plants, its role in the evolution of animals is more controversial, because reduced fitness would typically condemn animal hybrids to an evolutionary dead-end. Here, we examine DNA sequences of four mitochondrial and four nuclear genes selected for resolving phylogenetic relationships between goats, sheep, and their allies. Our analyses provide evidence of strong discordance for the position of Capra between mitochondrial and nuclear phylogenies. We suggest that the common ancestor of wild goats arose from interspecific hybridization, and that the mitochondrial genome of a species better adapted to life at high altitudes was transferred via this route into the common ancestor of Capra. We propose that the acquisition of more efficient mitochondria has conferred a selective advantage on goats, allowing their rapid adaptive radiation during the Plio-Pleistocene epoch. Our study therefore agrees with theories that predict an important role for interspecific hybridization in the evolution and diversification of animal species.

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