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Evolution. 2003 Dec;57(12):2835-41.

Initial stages of reproductive isolation in two species of the endangered Sonoran topminnow.

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School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287, USA.


Long-term geographic isolation can result in reproductive incompatibilities due to forces such as mutation, genetic drift, and differential selection. In the Sonoran topminnow, molecular genetic studies of mtDNA, microsatellites, and MHC genes have shown that the endangered Gila and Yaqui topminnows are substantially different, suggesting that divergence took place approximately two million years ago. Here we examined hybrid crosses and backcrosses between these two allopatric taxa to evaluate the accumulation of postmating barriers to reproduction. These results are then compared with results from a previous study where male topminnows were shown to mate assortatively with conspecific females. Despite their preference for conspecific mates, both types of interspecific crosses successfully produced offspring. There was evidence of reduced hybrid fitness, including smaller mean brood size and male-biased sex ratio, for some classes of backcrosses. Brood sizes and interbrood intervals varied significantly when hybrids were subdivided into different cross categories. Our results illustrate the importance of distinctly defining hybrid classes in studies of reproductive isolation. To our knowledge, this is the first such detailed evolutionary analysis in endangered fish taxa.

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