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      Gene flow and population structure in the Mexican blind cavefish complex ( Astyanax mexicanus)

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          Cave animals converge evolutionarily on a suite of troglomorphic traits, the best known of which are eyelessness and depigmentation. We studied 11 cave and 10 surface populations of Astyanax mexicanus in order to better understand the evolutionary origins of the cave forms, the basic genetic structuring of both cave and surface populations, and the degree to which present day migration among them affects their genetic divergence.


          To assess the genetic structure within populations and the relationships among them we genotyped individuals at 26 microsatellite loci. We found that surface populations are similar to one another, despite their relatively large geographic separation, whereas the cave populations are better differentiated. The cave populations we studied span the full range of the cave forms in three separate geographic regions and have at least five separate evolutionary origins. Cave populations had lower genetic diversity than surface populations, correlated with their smaller effective population sizes, probably the result of food and space limitations. Some of the cave populations receive migrants from the surface and exchange migrants with one another, especially when geographically close. This admixture results in significant heterozygote deficiencies at numerous loci due to Wahlund effects. Cave populations receiving migrants from the surface contain small numbers of individuals that are intermediate in both phenotype and genotype, affirming at least limited gene flow from the surface.


          Cave populations of this species are derived from two different surface stocks denoted "old" and "new." The old stock colonized caves at least three times independently while the new stock colonized caves at least twice independently. Thus, the similar cave phenotypes found in these caves are the result of repeated convergences. These phenotypic convergences have occurred in spite of gene flow from surface populations suggesting either strong natural or sexual selection for alleles responsible for the cave phenotype in the cave environment.

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          Most cited references 33

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          Estimation of average heterozygosity and genetic distance from a small number of individuals.

           M Nei (1978)
          The magnitudes of the systematic biases involved in sample heterozygosity and sample genetic distances are evaluated, and formulae for obtaining unbiased estimates of average heterozygosity and genetic distance are developed. It is also shown that the number of individuals to be used for estimating average heterozygosity can be very small if a large number of loci are studied and the average heterozygosity is low. The number of individuals to be used for estimating genetic distance can also be very small if the genetic distance is large and the average heterozygosity of the two species compared is low.
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            Maximum likelihood estimation of a migration matrix and effective population sizes in n subpopulations by using a coalescent approach.

            A maximum likelihood estimator based on the coalescent for unequal migration rates and different subpopulation sizes is developed. The method uses a Markov chain Monte Carlo approach to investigate possible genealogies with branch lengths and with migration events. Properties of the new method are shown by using simulated data from a four-population n-island model and a source-sink population model. Our estimation method as coded in migrate is tested against genetree; both programs deliver a very similar likelihood surface. The algorithm converges to the estimates fairly quickly, even when the Markov chain is started from unfavorable parameters. The method was used to estimate gene flow in the Nile valley by using mtDNA data from three human populations.
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              Widespread parallel evolution in sticklebacks by repeated fixation of Ectodysplasin alleles.

              Major phenotypic changes evolve in parallel in nature by molecular mechanisms that are largely unknown. Here, we use positional cloning methods to identify the major chromosome locus controlling armor plate patterning in wild threespine sticklebacks. Mapping, sequencing, and transgenic studies show that the Ectodysplasin (EDA) signaling pathway plays a key role in evolutionary change in natural populations and that parallel evolution of stickleback low-plated phenotypes at most freshwater locations around the world has occurred by repeated selection of Eda alleles derived from an ancestral low-plated haplotype that first appeared more than two million years ago. Members of this clade of low-plated alleles are present at low frequencies in marine fish, which suggests that standing genetic variation can provide a molecular basis for rapid, parallel evolution of dramatic phenotypic change in nature.

                Author and article information

                BMC Evol Biol
                BMC Evolutionary Biology
                BioMed Central
                23 January 2012
                : 12
                : 9
                [1 ]Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, (Av. da República), Oeiras, (2780-157), Portugal
                [2 ]Biology Department, New York University, (100 Washington Square East), NYC, 10003, USA
                [3 ]Department of Scientific Computing, Florida State University, (150-T Dirac Science Library), Tallahassee, (32306-4120), USA
                [4 ]Laboratorio de Genética para la Conservación, Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas del Noroeste La Paz, (Mar Bermejo #195), La Paz, (CP. 23090), Mexico
                Copyright ©2012 Bradic et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Research Article

                Evolutionary Biology


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