Adaptive introgression in animals: examples and comparison to new mutation and standing variation as sources of adaptive variation


Correspondence: Philip W. Hedrick,



Adaptive genetic variation has been thought to originate primarily from either new mutation or standing variation. Another potential source of adaptive variation is adaptive variants from other (donor) species that are introgressed into the (recipient) species, termed adaptive introgression. Here, the various attributes of these three potential sources of adaptive variation are compared. For example, the rate of adaptive change is generally thought to be faster from standing variation, slower from mutation and potentially intermediate from adaptive introgression. Additionally, the higher initial frequency of adaptive variation from standing variation and lower initial frequency from mutation might result in a higher probability of fixation of the adaptive variants for standing variation. Adaptive variation from introgression might have higher initial frequency than new adaptive mutations but lower than that from standing variation, again making the impact of adaptive introgression variation potentially intermediate. Adaptive introgressive variants might have multiple changes within a gene and affect multiple loci, an advantage also potentially found for adaptive standing variation but not for new adaptive mutants. The processes that might produce a common variant in two taxa, convergence, trans-species polymorphism from incomplete lineage sorting or from balancing selection and adaptive introgression, are also compared. Finally, potential examples of adaptive introgression in animals, including balancing selection for multiple alleles for major histocompatibility complex (MHC), S and csd genes, pesticide resistance in mice, black colour in wolves and white colour in coyotes, Neanderthal or Denisovan ancestry in humans, mimicry genes in Heliconius butterflies, beak traits in Darwin's finches, yellow skin in chickens and non-native ancestry in an endangered native salamander, are examined.