Identification of two genes causing reinforcement in the Texas wildflower Phlox drummondii.
Species formation generates biological diversity and occurs when traits evolve that prevent gene flow between populations. Discerning the number and distribution of genes underlying these traits and, in a few cases, identifying the genes involved, has greatly enhanced our understanding over the past 15 years of species formation (reviewed by Noor and Feder and Wolf et al.). However, this work has almost exclusively focused on traits that restrict gene flow between populations that have evolved as a by-product of genetic divergence between geographically isolated populations. By contrast, little is known about the characteristics of genes associated with reinforcement, the process by which natural selection directly favours restricted gene flow during the formation of species. Here we identify changes in two genes that appear to cause a flower colour change in Phlox drummondii, which previous work has shown contributes to reinforcement. Both changes involve cis-regulatory mutations to genes in the anthocyanin biosynthetic pathway (ABP). Because one change is recessive whereas the other is dominant, hybrid offspring produce an intermediate flower colour that is visited less by pollinators, and is presumably maladaptive. Thus genetic change selected to increase prezygotic isolation also appears to result in increased postzygotic isolation.
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