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Evolution. 1994 Apr;48(2):297-316. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.1994.tb01313.x.


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


Morphological consequences of hybridization were studied in a group of three interbreeding species of Darwin's finches on the small Gal√°pagos island of Daphne Major in the inclusive years 1976 to 1992. Geospiza fortis bred with G. scandens and G. fuliginosa. Although interbreeding was always rare (< 5%), sufficient samples of measurements of hybrids and backcrosses were accumulated for analysis. Five beak and body dimensions and mass were measured, and from these two synthetic (principal-component) traits were constructed. All traits were heritable in two of the interbreeding species (G. fuliginosa were too rare to be analyzed) and in the combined samples of F, hybrids and backcrosses to G. fortis. In agreement with expectations from a model of polygenic inheritance, hybrid and backcross classes were generally phenotypically intermediate between the breeding groups that had produced them. Hybridization increased additive genetic and environmental variances, increased heritabilities to a moderate extent, and generally strengthened phenotypic and genetic correlations. New additive genetic variance introduced by hybridization is estimated to be two to three orders of magnitude greater than that introduced by mutation. Enhanced variation facilitates directional evolutionary change, subject to constraints arising from genetic correlations between characters. The Darwin's finch data suggest that these constraints become stronger when species with similar proportions hybridize, but some become weaker when the interbreeding species have different allometries. This latter effect of hybridization, together with an enhancement of genetic variation, facilitates evolutionary change in a new direction.


Allometry; Darwin's finches; evolutionary potential; genetic constraints; genetic correlations; heritabilities; hybridization; mutation-selection balance; polygenic variation

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