Reconstructing the demographic history of divergence between European river and brook lampreys using approximate Bayesian computations

PeerJ. 2016 Apr 7:4:e1910. doi: 10.7717/peerj.1910. eCollection 2016.


Inferring the history of isolation and gene flow during species divergence is a central question in evolutionary biology. The European river lamprey (Lampetra fluviatilis) and brook lamprey (L. planeri) show a low reproductive isolation but have highly distinct life histories, the former being parasitic-anadromous and the latter non-parasitic and freshwater resident. Here we used microsatellite data from six replicated population pairs to reconstruct their history of divergence using an approximate Bayesian computation framework combined with a random forest model. In most population pairs, scenarios of divergence with recent isolation were outcompeted by scenarios proposing ongoing gene flow, namely the Secondary Contact (SC) and Isolation with Migration (IM) models. The estimation of demographic parameters under the SC model indicated a time of secondary contact close to the time of speciation, explaining why SC and IM models could not be discriminated. In case of an ancient secondary contact, the historical signal of divergence is lost and neutral markers converge to the same equilibrium as under the less parameterized model allowing ongoing gene flow. Our results imply that models of secondary contacts should be systematically compared to models of divergence with gene flow; given the difficulty to discriminate among these models, we suggest that genome-wide data are needed to adequately reconstruct divergence history.

Keywords: Approximate Bayesian computation; Divergence history; Gene flow; Lampetra fluviatilis; Lampetra planeri; Random forest; Speciation.

Grants and funding

This study was funded by the European Regional Development Fund (transnational programme Interreg IV, Atlantic Aquatic Resource Conservation Project). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.