Recombination rate variation shapes barriers to introgression across butterfly genomes

Simon H. Martin, John W. Davey, Camilo Salazar, Chris D. Jiggins

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch Articlepeer-review

176 Scopus citations


Hybridisation and introgression can dramatically alter the relationships among groups of species, leading to phylogenetic discordance across the genome and between populations. Introgression can also erode species differences over time, but selection against introgression at certain loci acts to maintain postmating species barriers. Theory predicts that species barriers made up of many loci throughout the genome should lead to a broad correlation between introgression and recombination rate, which determines the extent to which selection on deleterious foreign alleles will affect neutral alleles at physically linked loci. Here, we describe the variation in genealogical relationships across the genome among three species of Heliconius butterflies: H. melpomene (mel), H. cydno (cyd), and H. timareta (tim), using whole genomes of 92 individuals, and ask whether this variation can be explained by heterogeneous barriers to introgression. We find that species relationships vary predictably at the chromosomal scale. By quantifying recombination rate and admixture proportions, we then show that rates of introgression are predicted by variation in recombination rate. This implies that species barriers are highly polygenic, with selection acting against introgressed alleles across most of the genome. In addition, long chromosomes, which have lower recombination rates, produce stronger barriers on average than short chromosomes. Finally, we find a consistent difference between two species pairs on either side of the Andes, which suggests differences in the architecture of the species barriers. Our findings illustrate how the combined effects of hybridisation, recombination, and natural selection, acting at multitudes of loci over long periods, can dramatically sculpt the phylogenetic relationships among species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2006288
JournalPLoS Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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