, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 306-315

Hybridization Promotes Evolvability in African Cichlids: Connections Between Transgressive Segregation and Phenotypic Integration

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Abstract

Hybridization is a potential source of novel variation through (1) transgressive segregation, and (2) changes in the patterns and strength of phenotypic integration. We investigated the capacity of hybridization to generate novel phenotypic variation in African cichlids by examining a large F2 population generated by hybridizing two Lake Malawi cichlid species with differently shaped heads. Our morphometric analysis focused on the lateral and ventral views of the head. While the lateral view exhibited marked transgressive segregation, the ventral view showed a limited ability for transgression, indicating a difference in the genetic architecture and selective history between alternate views of the head. Moreover, hybrids showed a marked reduction in integration, with a lower degree of integration observed in transgressive individuals. In all, these data offer novel insights into how hybridization can promote evolvability, and provide a possible explanation for how broad phenotypic diversity may be achieved in rapidly evolving groups.