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Heredity (Edinb). 2009 Dec;103(6):439-44. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2009.151.

Islands of speciation or mirages in the desert? Examining the role of restricted recombination in maintaining species.

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Biology Department, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.

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  • Heredity. 2010 Apr;104(4):418.


Over the past decade, many studies documented high genetic divergence between closely related species in genomic regions experiencing restricted recombination in hybrids, such as within chromosomal rearrangements or areas adjacent to centromeres. Such regions have been called 'islands of speciation' because of their presumed role in maintaining the integrity of species despite gene flow elsewhere in the genome. Here, we review alternative explanations for such patterns. Segregation of ancestral variation or artifacts of nucleotide diversity within species can readily lead to higher F(ST) in regions of restricted recombination than other parts of the genome, even in the complete absence of interspecies gene flow, and thereby cause investigators to erroneously conclude that islands of speciation exist. We conclude by discussing strengths and weaknesses of various means for testing the role of restricted recombination in maintaining species.

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