Does human-induced hybridization have long-term genetic effects? Empirical testing with domesticated, wild and hybridized fish populations

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Abstract

Current conservation practices exclude human-generated hybridized populations from protection, as the genetic effects of hybridization in the wild have been observed to be long-lasting based on neutral genetic markers and are considered potentially irreversible. Theory, however, predicts otherwise for genes under selection. We transplanted combinations of wild, domesticated and hybridized populations of a fish species to new environments. We then compared survival, phenotypic variation and plasticity to determine whether hybridization affects adaptive potential after multiple generations of selection in the wild. Although the fitness of our hybridized populations at the onset of hybridization cannot be assessed, our results suggest that within five to eleven generations, selection can remove introduced foreign genes from wild populations that have hybridized with domesticated conspecifics. The end result is hybridized populations that, in terms of survival, phenotypic plasticity, mean trait expression and overall general responses to environmental change, closely resemble neighbouring wild populations. These results have important implications for considering the potential conservation value of hybridized populations and illustrate the effectiveness of selection in a local environment.

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