Gene flow across a hybrid zone maintained by a weak heterogametic incompatibility and positive selection of incompatible alleles


Correspondence: Ren-Xue Wang, BC Cancer Research Centre, BC Cancer Agency, 675 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, BC, Canada V5Z 1L3.Tel.: (604) 675 8000, extension: 7709; fax: (604) 675 8185; e-mail:


Hybridization between incipient species is more likely to produce sterile or inviable F1 offspring in the heterogametic (XY or ZW) sex than in the homogametic (XX or ZZ) sex, a phenomenon known as Haldane's rule. Population dynamics associated with Haldane's rule may play an important role in early speciation of sexually reproducing organisms. The dynamics of the hybrid zone maintained by incomplete hybrid inferiority (sterility/inviability) in the heterogametic sex (a ‘weak’ Haldane's rule) caused by a Bateson–Dobzhansky–Muller incompatibility was modelled. The influences and interplays of the strengths of incompatibility, dispersal, density-dependent regulation (DDR) and local adaptation of incompatible alleles in a scenario of short-range dispersal (the stepping-stone model) were examined. It was found that a partial heterogametic hybrid incompatibility could efficiently impede gene flow and maintain characteristic clinal noncoincidence and discordance of alleles. Density-dependent regulation appears to be an important factor affecting hybrid zone dynamics: it can effectively skew the effects of the partial incompatibility and dispersal as measured by effective dispersal, clinal structures and density depression. Unexpectedly, local adaptation of incompatible alleles in the parental populations, which would be critical for the establishment of the incompatibility, exerts little effect on hybrid zone dynamics. These results strongly support the plausibility of the adaptive origin of hybrid incompatibility and ecological speciation: an adaptive mutation, if it confers a marginal fitness advantage in the local population and happens to cause epistatic inferiority in hybrids, could efficiently drive further genetic divergence that may result in the gene becoming an evolutionary hotspot.