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PLoS One. 2018 Jul 19;13(7):e0200802. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200802. eCollection 2018.

The establishment of hybrids of the Daphnia longispina complex explained by a mathematical model incorporating different overwintering life history strategies.

Author information

Department of Ecosystem Research, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Berlin, Germany.
Department of Biology II, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, Planegg-Martinsried, Germany.
Groningen Institute of Evolutionary Life Science, University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands.
Department of Mathematics, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
Department of Biology, Chemistry, Pharmacy, Institute of Biology, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.


Interspecific hybridization (i.e. mating between species) occurs frequently in animals. Among cyclical parthenogens, hybrids can proliferate and establish through parthenogenetic reproduction, even if their sexual reproduction is impaired. In water fleas of the Daphnia longispina species complex, interspecific hybrids hatch from sexually produced dormant eggs. However, fewer hybrid genotypes contribute to the dormant egg bank and their hatching rate from dormant eggs is reduced, compared to eggs resulting from intraspecific crosses. Therefore, Daphnia hybrids would benefit from adaptations that increase their survival over winter as parthenogenetic lineages, avoiding the need to re-establish populations after winter from sexually produced dormant eggs. Here, we constructed a mathematical model to examine the conditions that could explain the frequently observed establishment of hybrids in the D. longispina species complex. Specifically, we compared the outcome of hybrid and parental taxa competition given a reduced contribution of hybrids to hatchlings from the sexually produced dormant egg bank, but their increased ability to survive winter as parthenogenetic lineages. In addition, different growth rates of parental species and differences in average annual temperatures were evaluated for their influence on hybrid production and establishment. Our model shows that increased overwinter performance as parthenogenetic females can compensate for reduced success in sexual reproduction, across all tested scenarios for varying relative growth rates of parental species. This pattern holds true for lower annual temperatures, but at higher temperatures hybrids were less successful. Consequently, hybrids might become less abundant as temperatures rise due to climate change, resulting in reduced diversity and faster differentiation of the parental species.

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