Cryptic recombination in the ever-young sex chromosomes of Hylid frogs


Correspondence: Rafael F. Guerrero, Section of Integrative Biology, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station C0930, Austin TX 78712, USA. Tel.: +1 512 471 3760; fax: +1 512 471 3878; e-mail:


Sex chromosomes are expected to evolve suppressed recombination, which leads to degeneration of the Y and heteromorphism between the X and Y. Some sex chromosomes remain homomorphic, however, and the factors that prevent degeneration of the Y in these cases are not well understood. The homomorphic sex chromosomes of the European tree frogs (Hyla spp.) present an interesting paradox. Recombination in males has never been observed in crossing experiments, but molecular data are suggestive of occasional recombination between the X and Y. The hypothesis that these sex chromosomes recombine has not been tested statistically, however, nor has the X-Y recombination rate been estimated. Here, we use approximate Bayesian computation coupled with coalescent simulations of sex chromosomes to quantify X-Y recombination rate from existent data. We find that microsatellite data from H. arborea, H. intermedia and H. molleri support a recombination rate between X and Y that is significantly different from zero. We estimate that rate to be approximately 105 times smaller than that between X chromosomes. Our findings support the notion that very low recombination rate may be sufficient to maintain homomorphism in sex chromosomes.