Higher levels of sex chromosome heteromorphism are associated with markedly stronger reproductive isolation

Nat Commun. 2014 Aug 21;5:4743. doi: 10.1038/ncomms5743.


The two 'rules of speciation', Haldane's rule and the large X-effect, describe the genetic basis of postzygotic isolation, and have led to the realization that sex chromosomes play an important role in this process. However, a range of sex determination mechanisms exists in nature, not always involving sex chromosomes. Based on these 'rules of speciation', I test the hypothesis that the presence of sex chromosomes will contribute to a faster evolution of intrinsic postzygotic isolation. I show that taxa that do not have sex chromosomes evolve lower levels of postzygotic isolation than taxa with sex chromosomes, at a similar amount of genetic divergence. Taxa with young homomorphic sex chromosomes show an intermediate pattern compared to taxa with heteromorphic sex chromosomes and taxa without sex chromosomes. These results are consistent with predictions from the two 'rules of speciation', and emphasize the importance of sex chromosomes for the evolution of intrinsic postzygotic isolation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anopheles / genetics
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Female
  • Lepidoptera / genetics
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Phylogeny
  • Ranidae / genetics
  • Reproductive Isolation*
  • Sex Chromosomes*