Pre-zygotic factors best explain reproductive isolation between the hybridizing species of brittle-stars Acrocnida brachiata and A. spatulispina (Echinodermata: Ophiuroidea)
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- Muths, D., Davoult, D., Jolly, M.T. et al. Genetica (2010) 138: 667. doi:10.1007/s10709-010-9441-4
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The two brittle-stars Acrocnida brachiata (Montagu 1804) and A. spatulispina (Stöhr and Muths in J Mar Biol Assoc, 2009) exhibit strong spatial segregation along the coast of Brittany (France), the first being subtidally distributed relative to the other intertidal species. Despite a very high degree of mitochondrial DNA divergence, previous preliminary results hinted at the potential for hybridization to occur. Therefore, we specifically aim to determine local levels of hybridization between these two species and to investigate the relative roles of pre- and post- zygotic isolation processes acting to decrease local hybridization patterns. Mitochondrial DNA, allozymes and the Internal Transcribed Spacer 2 region of the ribosomal DNA were all used on 529 brittle-stars sampled locally in June and September 2005, among six stations in Douarnenez Bay, a site situated at the tip of Brittany. Only 2.6% of all samples analyzed were identified as potential hybrids. However, these were twice more frequent in June, just after the reproductive period, than in September after selective mortality acted to reduce the proportions of hybrids. In addition to the abrupt bathymetric segregation between the two species, spawning asynchrony also clearly restricts hybridization to low levels, which shows the importance of pre-zygotic mechanisms in maintaining reproductive isolation. Moreover, both limited hybridization events and adult mortalities following reproduction tend to generate local genetic differentiation at the intra-species level. On the contrary, the genetic structure is homogenized by migration of juveniles or adults and hybrids mortalities over the summer period.