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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2011 Apr;59(1):66-80. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2010.12.018. Epub 2011 Jan 19.

Nuclear-mitochondrial discordance and gene flow in a recent radiation of toads.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX 76019, USA.


Natural hybridization among recently diverged species has traditionally been viewed as a homogenizing force, but recent research has revealed a possible role for interspecific gene flow in facilitating species radiations. Natural hybridization can actually contribute to radiations by introducing novel genes or reshuffling existing genetic variation among diverging species. Species that have been affected by natural hybridization often demonstrate patterns of discordance between phylogenies generated using nuclear and mitochondrial markers. We used Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism (AFLP) data in conjunction with mitochondrial DNA in order to examine patterns of gene flow and nuclear-mitochondrial discordance in the Anaxyrus americanus group, a recent radiation of North American toads. We found high levels of gene flow between putative species, particularly in species pairs sharing similar male advertisement calls that occur in close geographic proximity, suggesting that prezygotic reproductive isolating mechanisms and isolation by distance are the primary determinants of gene flow and genetic differentiation among these species. Additionally, phylogenies generated using AFLP and mitochondrial data were markedly discordant, likely due to recent and/or ongoing natural hybridization events between sympatric populations. Our results indicate that the putative species in the A. americanus group have experienced high levels of gene flow, and suggest that their North American radiation could have been facilitated by the introduction of beneficial genetic variation from admixture between divergent populations coming into secondary contact after glacial retreats.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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