Reconstructing past events of hybridization and population size changes are required to understand speciation mechanisms and current patterns of genetic diversity, and ultimately contribute to species' conservation. Sea turtles are ancient species currently facing anthropogenic threats including climate change, fisheries, and illegal hunting. Five of the seven extant sea turtle species are known to currently hybridize, especially along the Brazilian coast where some populations can have ~32%–42% of hybrids. Although frequently observed today, it is not clear what role hybridization plays in the evolutionary diversification of this group of reptiles. In this study, we generated whole genome resequencing data of the five globally distributed sea turtle species to estimate a calibrated phylogeny and the population size dynamics, and to understand the role of hybridization in shaping the genomes of these ancient species. Our results reveal discordant species divergence dates between mitochondrial and nuclear genomes, with a high frequency of conflicting trees throughout the nuclear genome suggesting that some sea turtle species frequently hybridized in the past. The reconstruction of the species' demography showed a general decline in effective population sizes with no signs of recovery, except for the leatherback sea turtle. Furthermore, we discuss the influence of reference bias in our estimates. We show long-lasting ancestral gene flow events within Chelonioidea that continued for millions of years after initial divergence. Speciation with gene flow is a common pattern in marine species, and it raises questions whether current hybridization events should be considered as a part of these species' evolutionary history or a conservation issue.

Vilaça, S.T.; Piccinno, R.; Rota-Stabelli, O.; Gabrielli, M.; Benazzo, A.; Matschiner, M.; Soares, L.S.; Bolten, A.B.; Bjorndal, K.A.; Bertorelle, G. (2021). Divergence and hybridization in sea turtles: Inferences from genome data show evidence of ancient gene flow between species. MOLECULAR ECOLOGY, 30 (23): 6178-6192. doi: 10.1111/mec.16113 handle: http://hdl.handle.net/10449/71883

Divergence and hybridization in sea turtles: Inferences from genome data show evidence of ancient gene flow between species

Piccinno, Riccardo;Rota-Stabelli, Omar;
2021

Abstract

Reconstructing past events of hybridization and population size changes are required to understand speciation mechanisms and current patterns of genetic diversity, and ultimately contribute to species' conservation. Sea turtles are ancient species currently facing anthropogenic threats including climate change, fisheries, and illegal hunting. Five of the seven extant sea turtle species are known to currently hybridize, especially along the Brazilian coast where some populations can have ~32%–42% of hybrids. Although frequently observed today, it is not clear what role hybridization plays in the evolutionary diversification of this group of reptiles. In this study, we generated whole genome resequencing data of the five globally distributed sea turtle species to estimate a calibrated phylogeny and the population size dynamics, and to understand the role of hybridization in shaping the genomes of these ancient species. Our results reveal discordant species divergence dates between mitochondrial and nuclear genomes, with a high frequency of conflicting trees throughout the nuclear genome suggesting that some sea turtle species frequently hybridized in the past. The reconstruction of the species' demography showed a general decline in effective population sizes with no signs of recovery, except for the leatherback sea turtle. Furthermore, we discuss the influence of reference bias in our estimates. We show long-lasting ancestral gene flow events within Chelonioidea that continued for millions of years after initial divergence. Speciation with gene flow is a common pattern in marine species, and it raises questions whether current hybridization events should be considered as a part of these species' evolutionary history or a conservation issue.
Settore BIO/18 - GENETICA
Vilaça, S.T.; Piccinno, R.; Rota-Stabelli, O.; Gabrielli, M.; Benazzo, A.; Matschiner, M.; Soares, L.S.; Bolten, A.B.; Bjorndal, K.A.; Bertorelle, G. (2021). Divergence and hybridization in sea turtles: Inferences from genome data show evidence of ancient gene flow between species. MOLECULAR ECOLOGY, 30 (23): 6178-6192. doi: 10.1111/mec.16113 handle: http://hdl.handle.net/10449/71883
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