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Mol Biol Evol. 2007 Jun;24(6):1423-38. Epub 2007 Apr 2.

The genetic architecture of ecological speciation and the association with signatures of selection in natural lake whitefish (Coregonus sp. Salmonidae) species pairs.

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Québec Océan, Département de Biologie, Université Laval, Ste-Foy, Québec, Canada.


Adaptive evolutionary change is contingent on variation and selection; thus, understanding adaptive divergence and ultimately speciation requires information on both the genetic basis of adaptive traits as well as an understanding of the role of divergent natural selection on those traits. The lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) consists of several sympatric "dwarf" (limnetic) and normal (benthic) species pairs that co-inhabit northern postglacial lakes. These young species pairs have evolved independently and display parallelism in life history, behavioral, and morphological divergence associated with the use of distinct trophic resources. We identified phenotype-environment associations and determined the genetic architecture and the role of selection modulating population genetic divergence in sympatric dwarf and normal lake whitefish. The genetic architecture of 9 adaptive traits was analyzed in 2 hybrid backcrosses individually phenotyped throughout their life history. Significant quantitative trait loci (QTL) were associated with swimming behavior (habitat selection and predator avoidance), growth rate, morphology (condition factor and gill rakers), and life history (onset of maturity and fecundity). Genome scans among 4 natural sympatric pairs, using loci segregating in the map, revealed a signature of selection for 24 loci. Loci exhibiting a signature of selection were associated with QTL relative to other regions of the genome more often than expected by chance alone. Two parallel QTL outliers for growth and condition factor exhibited segregation distortion in both mapping families, supporting the hypothesis that adaptive divergence contributing to parallel reductions of gene flow among natural populations may cause genetic incompatibilities. Overall, these findings offer evidence that the genetic architecture of ecological speciation is associated with signatures of selection in nature, providing strong support for the hypothesis that divergent natural selection is currently maintaining adaptive differentiation and promoting ecological speciation in lake whitefish species pairs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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