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Am Nat. 2005 Jul;166(1):56-67. Epub 2005 Apr 19.

Hybridization in the recent past.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544-1003, USA.


The question we address in this article is how hybridization in the recent past can be detected in recently evolved species. Such species may not have evolved genetic incompatibilities and may hybridize with little or no fitness loss. Hybridization can be recognized by relatively small genetic differences between sympatric populations because sympatric populations have the opportunity to interbreed whereas allopatric populations do not. Using microsatellite DNA data from Darwin's finches in the Galapagos archipelago, we compare sympatric and allopatric genetic distances in pairs of Geospiza and Camarhynchus species. In agreement with the hybridization hypothesis, we found a statistically strong tendency for a species to be more similar genetically to a sympatric relative than to allopatric populations of that relative. Hybridization has been studied directly on two islands, but it is evidently more widespread in the archipelago. We argue that introgressive hybridization may have been a persistent feature of the adaptive radiation through most of its history, facilitating evolutionary diversification and occasionally affecting both the speed and direction of evolution.

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