Introgressive hybridization: brown bears as vectors for polar bear alleles.

Abstract:

:The dynamics and consequences of introgression can inform about numerous evolutionary processes. Biologists have therefore long been interested in hybridization. One challenge, however, lies in the identification of nonadmixed genotypes that can serve as a baseline for accurate quantification of admixture. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Cahill et al. (2015) analyse a genomic data set of 28 polar bears, eight brown bears and one American black bear. Polar bear alleles are found to be introgressed into brown bears not only near a previously identified admixture zone on the Alaskan Admiralty, Baranof and Chichagof (ABC) Islands, but also far into the North American mainland. Elegantly contrasting admixture levels at autosomal and X chromosomal markers, Cahill and colleagues infer that male-biased dispersal has spread these introgressed alleles away from the Late Pleistocene contact zone. Compared to a previous study on the ABC Island population in which an Alaskan brown bear served as a putatively admixture-free reference, Cahill et al. (2015) utilize a newly sequenced Swedish brown bear as admixture baseline. This approach reveals that brown bears have been impacted by introgression from polar bears to a larger extent (up to 8.8% of their genome), than previously known, including the bear that had previously served as admixture baseline. No evidence for introgression of brown bear into polar bear is found, which the authors argue could be a consequence of selection. Besides adding new exciting pieces to the puzzle of polar/brown bear evolutionary history, the study by Cahill and colleagues highlights that wildlife genomics is moving from analysing single genomes towards a landscape genomics approach.

journal_name

Mol Ecol

journal_title

Molecular ecology

authors

Hailer F

doi

10.1111/mec.13101

subject

Has Abstract

pub_date

2015-03-01 00:00:00

pages

1161-3

issue

6

eissn

0962-1083

issn

1365-294X

journal_volume

24

pub_type

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