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Evolution. 2010 Feb 1;64(2):456-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2009.00841.x. Epub 2009 Sep 30.

Female heterogamety and speciation: reduced introgression of the Z chromosome between two species of nightingales.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA.


Several lines of evidence suggest that the X chromosome plays a large role in intrinsic postzygotic isolation. The role of the Z chromosome in speciation is much less understood. To explore the role of the Z chromosome in reproductive isolation, we studied nucleotide variation in two closely related bird species, the Thrush Nightingale (Luscinia luscinia) and the Common Nightingale (L. megarhynchos). These species are isolated by incomplete prezygotic isolation and female hybrid sterility. We sequenced introns of four Z-linked and eight autosomal loci and analyzed patterns of polymorphism and divergence using a divergence-with-gene flow framework. Our results suggest that the nightingale species diverged approximately 1.8 Mya. We found strong evidence of gene flow after divergence in both directions, although more introgression occurred from L. megarhynchos into L. luscinia. Gene flow was significantly higher on the autosomes than on the Z chromosome. Our results support the idea that the Z chromosome plays an important role in intrinsic postzygotic isolation in birds, although it may also contribute to the evolution of prezygotic isolation through sexual selection. This highlights the similarities in the genetic basis of reproductive isolation between organisms with heterogametic males and organisms with heterogametic females during the early stages of speciation.

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