Indirect Evolution of Hybrid Lethality Due to Linkage with Selected Locus in Mimulus guttatus

Kevin M. Wright, Deborah Lloyd, David B. Lowry, Mark R. Macnair, John H. Willis

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91 Citations (SciVal)


Most species are superbly and intricately adapted to the environments in which they live. Adaptive evolution by natural selection is the primary force shaping biological diversity. Differences between closely related species in ecologically selected characters such as habitat preference, reproductive timing, courtship behavior, or pollinator attraction may prevent interbreeding in nature, causing reproductive isolation. But does ecological adaptation cause reproductive incompatibilities such as hybrid sterility or lethality? Although several genes causing hybrid incompatibilities have been identified, there is intense debate over whether the genes that contribute to ecological adaptations also cause hybrid incompatibilities. Thirty years ago, a genetic study of local adaptation to copper mine soils in the wildflower Mimulus guttatus identified a locus that appeared to cause copper tolerance and hybrid lethality in crosses to other populations. But do copper tolerance and hybrid lethality have the same molecular genetic basis? Here we show, using high-resolution genome mapping, that copper tolerance and hybrid lethality are not caused by the same gene but are in fact separately controlled by two tightly linked loci. We further show that selection on the copper tolerance locus indirectly caused the hybrid incompatibility allele to go to high frequency in the copper mine population because of hitchhiking. Our results provide a new twist on Darwin's original supposition that hybrid incompatibilities evolve as an incidental by-product of ordinary adaptation to the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1001497
JournalPLoS Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)


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