Parthenogenesis in Darevskia lizards: A rare outcome of common hybridization, not a common outcome of rare hybridization

Evolution. 2022 May;76(5):899-914. doi: 10.1111/evo.14462. Epub 2022 Apr 12.


Hybridization is a common evolutionary process with multiple possible outcomes. In vertebrates, interspecific hybridization has repeatedly generated parthenogenetic hybrid species. However, it is unknown whether the generation of parthenogenetic hybrids is a rare outcome of frequent hybridization between sexual species within a genus or the typical outcome of rare hybridization events. Darevskia is a genus of rock lizards with both hybrid parthenogenetic and sexual species. Using capture sequencing, we estimate phylogenetic relationships and gene flow among the sexual species, to determine how introgressive hybridization relates to the origins of parthenogenetic hybrids. We find evidence for widespread hybridization with gene flow, both between recently diverged species and deep branches. Surprisingly, we find no signal of gene flow between parental species of the parthenogenetic hybrids, suggesting that the parental pairs were either reproductively or geographically isolated early in their divergence. The generation of parthenogenetic hybrids in Darevskia is, then, a rare outcome of the total occurrence of hybridization within the genus, but the typical outcome when specific species pairs hybridize. Our results question the conventional view that parthenogenetic lineages are generated by hybridization in a window of divergence. Instead, they suggest that some lineages possess specific properties that underpin successful parthenogenetic reproduction.

Keywords: Asexuality; hybridization; lacertids; parthenogenesis; phylogeny; reptiles.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Hybridization, Genetic
  • Lizards* / genetics
  • Parthenogenesis / genetics
  • Phylogeny