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Using differential introgression in hybrid zones to identify genomic regions involved in speciation


Bret A. Payseur, Fax: 608-262-2976; E-mail:


Hybrids between species provide information about the evolutionary processes involved in divergence. In addition to creating hybrids in the laboratory, biologists can take advantage of natural hybrid zones to understand the factors that shape gene flow between divergent lineages. In the early stages of speciation, most regions of the genome continue to flow freely between populations. Alternatively, the subset of the genome that confers reproductive barriers between nascent species is expected to reject introgression. Now enabled by advances in genomics, this perspective is motivating detailed comparisons of gene flow across genomic regions in hybrid zones. Here, I review methods for measuring and interpreting introgression at multiple loci in hybrid zones, focusing on the problem of identifying loci that contribute to reproductive isolation. Emerging patterns from multi-locus studies of hybrid zones are highlighted, including remarkable variance in introgression across the genome. Although existing methods have been useful, there is scope for development of new analytical approaches that better connect differential patterns of gene flow in hybrid zones with current knowledge of speciation mechanisms. I outline future prospects for differential introgression studies on a genomic scale.