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Keywords:

  • Broadcast spawning;
  • Ciona intestinalis;
  • hybridization;
  • introgression;
  • mtCOI;
  • reproductive isolation

Understanding the relationship between reproductive isolation and time since divergence is critical to our understanding of speciation. One group for which we know little about the relationship between hybridization/introgression and time since divergence is the marine broadcast spawners. Here, we investigate the distribution of closely related cryptic species of marine broadcast spawners (Type A and B Ciona intestinalis) in areas of potential sympatry to determine whether these two types occur together and if so, whether they show evidence of hybridization and introgression. Then we combine our data with other studies to investigate general patterns of reproductive isolation versus divergence in marine broadcast spawners. We found that Type A and B C. intestinalis occurred sympatrically in 2007, and that 21 individuals show evidence of introgression in sympatry (out of approximately 500). Type A and B C. intestinalis are 12.4% divergent at mitochondrial COI (mtCOI), and in comparison with other marine broadcast spawning species at mtCOI, these two types may be near the upper limit of the range of divergence values in which introgression is still possible. However, introgression at divergence levels similar to those found in Ciona does exist, prompting questions about the strength of postmating prezygotic reproductive barriers in marine broadcast spawners.