Genomic Signatures of Reinforcement

Genes (Basel). 2018 Apr 3;9(4):191. doi: 10.3390/genes9040191.


Reinforcement is the process by which selection against hybridization increases reproductive isolation between taxa. Much research has focused on demonstrating the existence of reinforcement, yet relatively little is known about the genetic basis of reinforcement or the evolutionary conditions under which reinforcement can occur. Inspired by reinforcement's characteristic phenotypic pattern of reproductive trait divergence in sympatry but not in allopatry, we discuss whether reinforcement also leaves a distinct genomic pattern. First, we describe three patterns of genetic variation we expect as a consequence of reinforcement. Then, we discuss a set of alternative processes and complicating factors that may make the identification of reinforcement at the genomic level difficult. Finally, we consider how genomic analyses can be leveraged to inform if and to what extent reinforcement evolved in the face of gene flow between sympatric lineages and between allopatric and sympatric populations of the same lineage. Our major goals are to understand if genome scans for particular patterns of genetic variation could identify reinforcement, isolate the genetic basis of reinforcement, or infer the conditions under which reinforcement evolved.

Keywords: gene flow; genetic divergence; genome scans; reinforcement; reproductive isolation; selection; speciation.

Publication types

  • Review