GENOME EVOLUTION AND SPECIATION: TOWARD QUANTITATIVE DESCRIPTIONS OF PATTERN AND PROCESS

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Abstract

Studies of patterns of differentiation across genomes are accumulating, yet integrative work that combines approaches and fully capitalizes on new technologies to test explicit hypotheses is still rare. Thus, debates persist about the rate, magnitude, and causes of genomic change. This special section is devoted to helping resolve these debates. The eight studies contained within demonstrate how we can begin to move away from vague metaphors toward quantitative and more precise descriptors of patterns of genetic architecture and divergence. However, a particular genomic pattern can often arise via different combinations of various processes such as selection, gene flow, recombination, mutation, genetic drift, and demographic variability. Thus, substantial challenges remain in elucidating which evolutionary processes generated observed genomic patterns. Nonetheless, the studies in this section demonstrate ways forward toward bridging pattern and process, including experimental work, genetic mapping, increased knowledge of natural history and demography, and comparative studies spanning taxa at different points in the speciation continuum. Such collective work will lead to more powerful hypothesis testing. Future work can also help better integrate the contributions of ecology, genome structure (e.g., inversions and translocations), and genetic conflict to genome evolution.

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