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Evolution. 2008 Feb;62(2):316-36. Epub 2007 Nov 12.

Heterogeneous genomic differentiation between walking-stick ecotypes: "isolation by adaptation" and multiple roles for divergent selection.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.


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.

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