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Mol Ecol. 2011 Sep;20(18):3823-37. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2011.05182.x. Epub 2011 Jul 18.

Hybrid speciation in sparrows II: a role for sex chromosomes?

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Department of Biology, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066, Blindern, N-0316 Oslo, Norway.


Homoploid hybrid speciation in animals is poorly understood, mainly because of the scarcity of well-documented cases. Here, we present the results of a multilocus sequence analysis on the house sparrow (Passer domesticus), Spanish sparrow (P. hispaniolensis) and their proposed hybrid descendant, the Italian sparrow (P. italiae). The Italian sparrow is shown to be genetically intermediate between the house sparrow and Spanish sparrow, exhibiting genealogical discordance and a mosaic pattern of alleles derived from either of the putative parental species. The average variation on the Z chromosome was significantly reduced compared with autosomal variation in the putative parental species, the house sparrow and Spanish sparrow. Additionally, divergence between the two species was elevated on the Z chromosome relative to the autosomes. This pattern of variation and divergence is consistent with reduced introgression of Z-linked genes and/or a faster-Z effect (increased rate of adaptive divergence on the Z). F(ST) -outlier tests were consistent with the faster-Z hypothesis: two of five Z-linked loci (CHD1Z and PLAA) were identified as candidates for being subject to positive, divergent selection in the putative parental species. Interestingly, the two latter genes showed a mosaic pattern in the (hybrid) Italian sparrow; that is, the Italian sparrow was found to be fixed for Spanish sparrow alleles at CHD1Z and to mainly have house sparrow alleles at PLAA. Preliminary evidence presented in this study thus suggests that sex chromosomes may play a significant role in this case of homoploid hybrid speciation.

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