Adaptive introgression during environmental change can weaken reproductive isolation

Abstract

Anthropogenic climate change is an urgent threat to species diversity1,2. One aspect of this threat is the merging of species through increased hybridization3. The primary mechanism for this collapse is thought to be the weakening of ecologically mediated reproductive barriers, as demonstrated in cases of ‘reverse speciation’4,5. Here, we expand on this idea and show that adaptive introgression between species adapting to a shared, moving climatic optimum can readily weaken any reproductive barrier, including those that are completely independent of climate. Using genetically explicit forward-time simulations, we show that genetic linkage between alleles conferring adaptation to a changing climate and alleles conferring reproductive isolation (intrinsic and/or non-climatic extrinsic) can lead to adaptive introgression facilitating the homogenization of reproductive isolation alleles. This effect causes the decay of species boundaries across a broad and biologically realistic parameter space. We explore how the magnitude of this effect depends on the rate of climate change, the genetic architecture of adaptation, the initial degree of reproductive isolation, the degree to which reproductive isolation is intrinsic versus extrinsic and the mutation rate. These results highlight a previously unexplored effect of rapid climate change on species diversity.

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Fig. 1: An example simulation with Δ = 1.5 illustrating climate-driven adaptive introgression.
Fig. 2: The effect of simulation parameters on RI loss.
Fig. 3: Hybridization enhances adaptation at high rates of climate change.

Data availability

The authors declare that data supporting the findings of this study are available within the article, its supplementary information files and at https://github.com/owensgl/adaptive_introgression.

Code availability

All code for the underlying simulations is available at https://github.com/owensgl/adaptive_introgression.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by an NSERC Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship to G.O. and an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship to K.S. G.O. was also supported by postdoctoral funding from R. Nielsen at UC Berkeley, while K.S. was further supported by postdoctoral funding and good vibes from M. Noor at Duke University. R. Nielsen, M. Osmond, K. Ostevik and L. Rieseberg provided helpful feedback and discussions on earlier versions of the manuscript. We thank P. Messer and B. Haller for assistance with the SLiM 3.X software.

Author information

G.O. and K.S. designed the study, created the model, analysed the results and wrote the paper.

Correspondence to Gregory L. Owens.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Climate Change thanks Simon Martin, Joshua Miller and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary discussion, Figs. 1–3 and Tables 1–5.

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Owens, G.L., Samuk, K. Adaptive introgression during environmental change can weaken reproductive isolation. Nat. Clim. Chang. 10, 58–62 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-019-0628-0

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