Speciation as a positive feedback loop between postzygotic and prezygotic barriers to gene flow

Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Jul 22;270(1523):1473-9. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2003.2391.


Speciation is intimately associated with the evolution of sex-and-reproduction-related traits, including those affecting hybrid incompatibility (postzygotic isolation) and species recognition (prezygotic isolation). Genes controlling such traits are not randomly distributed in the genome but are particularly abundant on the sex chromosomes. However, the evolutionary consequences of the sex linkage of genes involved in speciation have been little explored. Here, we present simulations of a continent-island diploid model that examines the effects of reduced recombination using both autosomal and sex-linked inheritance. We show first that linkage between genes affecting postzygotic and prezygotic isolation leads to a positive feedback loop in which both are strengthened. As species recognition evolves, genes causing hybrid incompatibility will hitchhike along with those improving premating isolation, leading to stronger hybrid incompatibility and thus increased pressure for further preference divergence. Second, we show that this loop effect is generally enhanced by sex linkage, because recombination is eliminated in the heterogametic sex, leading to tighter effective linkage between the two classes of genes and because natural selection is more efficient at sex-linked loci, as recessive alleles are not masked by dominance in the heterogametic sex. Accordingly, hitchhiking can be important in promoting speciation and can also lead to increased postzygotic isolation through adaptive evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Hybridization, Genetic
  • Infertility / genetics*
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Sex Chromosomes
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal