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Mol Biol Evol. 2011 Aug;28(8):2253-67. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msr043. Epub 2011 Feb 15.

Repeated unidirectional introgression of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA between four congeneric Tanganyikan cichlids.

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  • 1Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium. bruno.nevado@naturalsciences.be

Abstract

With an increasing number of reported cases of hybridization and introgression, interspecific gene flow between animals has recently become a widely accepted and broadly studied phenomenon. In this study, we examine patterns of hybridization and introgression in Ophthalmotilapia spp., a genus of cichlid fish from Lake Tanganyika, using mitochondrial and nuclear DNA from all four species in the genus and including specimens from over 800 km of shoreline. These four species have very different, partially overlapping distribution ranges, thus allowing us to study in detail patterns of gene flow between sympatric and allopatric populations of the different species. We show that a significant proportion of individuals of the lake-wide distributed O. nasuta carry mitochondrial and/or nuclear DNA typical of other Ophthalmotilapia species. Strikingly, all such individuals were found in populations living in sympatry with each of the other Ophthalmotilapia species, strongly suggesting that this pattern originated by repeated and independent episodes of genetic exchange in different parts of the lake, with unidirectional introgression occurring into O. nasuta. Our analysis rejects the hypotheses that unidirectional introgression is caused by natural selection favoring heterospecific DNA, by skewed abundances of Ophthalmotilapia species or by hybridization events occurring during a putative spatial expansion in O. nasuta. Instead, cytonuclear incompatibilities or asymmetric behavioral reproductive isolation seem to have driven repeated, unidirectional introgression of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA into O. nasuta in different parts of the lake.

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