Evidence is rapidly accumulating that hybridization generates adaptive variation. Transgressive segregation in hybrids could promote the colonization of new environments. Here, we use an assay to select hybrid genotypes that can proliferate in environmental conditions beyond the conditions tolerated by their parents, and we directly compete them against parental genotypes in habitats across environmental clines. We made 45 different hybrid swarms by crossing yeast strains (both Saccharomyces cerevisiae and S. paradoxus) with different genetic and phenotypic divergence. We compared the ability of hybrids and parents to colonize seven types of increasingly extreme environmental clines, representing both natural and novel challenges (mimicking pollution events). We found that a significant majority of hybrids had greater environmental ranges compared to the average of both their parents' ranges (mid-parent transgression), but only a minority of hybrids had ranges exceeding their best parent (best-parent transgression). Transgression was affected by the specific strains involved in the cross and by the test environment. Genetic and phenotypic crossing distance predicted the extent of transgression in only two of the seven environments. We isolated a set of potentially transgressive hybrids selected at the extreme ends of the clines and found that many could directly outcompete their parents across whole clines and were between 1.5- and 3-fold fitter on average. Saccharomyces yeast is a good model for quantitative and replicable experimental speciation studies, which may be useful in a world where hybridization is becoming increasingly common due to the relocation of plants and animals by humans.
Keywords: Saccharomyces; environmental clines; hybridization; relative fitness; speciation; transgressive segregation.
© 2014 The Authors. Journal of Evolutionary Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of European Society for Evolutionary Biology.