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Introgressive hybridization as a mechanism for species rescue

  • Author(s): Baskett, ML;
  • Gomulkiewicz, R
  • et al.

Rapid evolution on ecological time scales can play a key role in species responses to environmental change. One dynamic that has the potential to generate the diversity necessary for evolution rapid enough to allow response to sudden environmental shifts is introgressive hybridization. However, if distinct sub-species exist before an environmental shift, mechanisms that impede hybridization, such as assortative mating and hybrid inferiority, are likely to be present. Here we explore the theoretical potential for introgressive hybridization to play a role in response to environmental change. In particular, we incorporate assortative mating, hybrid inferiority, and demographic stochasticity into a two-locus, two-allele population genetic model of two interacting species where one locus identifies the species and the other determines how fitness depends on the changing environment. Simulation results indicate that moderately high values for the strength of assortative mating will allow enough hybridization events to outweigh demographic stochasticity but not so many that continued hybridization outweighs backcrossing and introgression. Successful introgressive hybridization also requires intermediate relative fitness at the allele negatively affected by environmental change such that hybrid survivorship outweighs demographic stochasticity but selection remains strong enough to affect the genetic dynamics. The potential for successful introgression instead of extinction with greater environmental change is larger with monogamous rather than promiscuous mating due to lower stochasticity in mating events. These results suggest species characteristics (e.g., intermediate assortative mating and mating systems with low variation in mating likelihood) which indicate a potential for rapid evolution in response to environmental change via introgressive hybridization. © 2011 The Author(s).

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