Influence of hydrogeographic history and hybridization on the distribution of genetic variation in the pupfishes Cyprinodon atrorus and C. bifasciatus


Evan W. Carson, Present address: Department of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina, 701 Sumter Street, Columbia, South Carolina 29208, USA. Fax: 1 803 777 4002; E-mail:


The evolutionary importance of hybridization in animals has been subject of much debate. In this study, we examined the influence of hydrogeographic history and hybridization on the present distribution of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA variation in two pupfish species, Cyprinodon atrorus and Cyprinodon bifasciatus. Results presented here indicate that there has been limited introgression of nuclear genes; however, mtDNA introgression has been substantial, with complete replacement of the C. bifasciatus mitochondrial genome by that of C. atrorus. Subsequent to this replacement, there has been diversification of mitochondrial haplotypes along major geographic regions in the basin. Evidence was also found that mitochondrial replacement follows a predictable, cyclical pattern in this system, with isolation and diversification followed by re-contact and replacement of C. bifasciatus mitochondrial haplotypes by those of C. atrorus. This pattern is best explained by a combination of a numeric bias towards C. atrorus and mating site selection rather than selection for C. atrorus mitochondrial genome. These results demonstrate the important role hybridization can play in evolution.