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Free Content Intergenomic epistasis causes asynchronous hatch times in whitefish hybrids, but only when parental ecotypes differ

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Support for the theory of ecological speciation requires evidence for ecological divergence between species which directly or indirectly causes reproductive isolation. This study investigates effects of ecological vs. genetic disparity of parental species on the presence of endogenous selection (deformation and mortality rates) and potential sources of exogenous selection (growth rates and hatch timing) on hybrids. Hybrid embryonic development is analysed in a common-garden full-sib cross of three species belonging to two different ecotypes within the Coregonus lavaretus species flock in the central Alpine region of Europe. Although hatch timing was similar across the three species, embryonic growth rates and egg sizes differed between ecotypes. This led to a mismatch between embryonic growth rate and egg size in hybrid crosses that reveals epistasis between the maternal and embryonic genomes and transgressive hatch times that were asynchronous with control crosses. A strong constraint of egg size to embryo size at late development was also evident. We argue that this demonstrates potential for coadaptation of a maternal trait (egg size) with offspring growth rate to be an important source of selection against hybridization between ecotypes with different egg sizes. Implications for the measurement and quantification of early life-history traits affected by this additive relationship, such as hatch day and larval size, are also discussed.
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Keywords: Coregonus; coadaptation; developmental rate; ecological speciation; egg size; embryonic growth; emergence; extrinsic selection; hatch time; hybrid dysfunction; intergenomic epistasis; reinforcement

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Fish Ecology and Evolution, Eawag, Centre of Ecology, Evolution and Biogeochemistry, Kastanienbaum, Switzerland

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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