Differentiation across the Podisma pedestris hybrid zone inferred from high-throughput sequencing data
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Hybrid zones are regions where genetically differentiated forms come together and exchange genes through hybrid offspring. The study of characters gradually changing across such zones (clines) can give insight into evolutionary processes, providing exceptionally sensitive estimates of the intensity of selection, and allowing the detection of loci that might be involved in reproductive isolation and speciation. The Alpine grasshopper Podisma pedestris has a hybrid zone in Southern France where two populations meet. They differ in their sex chromosome system, and strong selection against hybrids is observed. These distinct populations likely have split and re-joined several times during the Quaternary glacial cycles. A model explaining the selection observed against hybrids postulates hundreds of loci of small effect spread over two differentiated genomes meeting in secondary contact. Yet, over 50 years of study to-date non have been discovered. However, so far the study of P. pedestris has not made use of high-throughput sequencing data which provides an unprecedented resolution of molecular markers. I am aiming to close the gap with this thesis. I assemble the grasshopper’s mitochondrial genome sequence and infer what proportion of its genome is made up by mitochondrial inserts (Numts). Using transcriptome data from two individuals, I then go on to fit demographic models, finding the populations split approximately 400 000 years ago and that the current-day population sizes are considerably smaller than the ancestral one. The final data chapter explores the genetic architecture of the hybrid zone using data from a targeted sequence capture of hundreds of loci covering some 10 000 polymorphic sites. Only two loci under selection are identified, which is surprising given the power of the analysis. Both loci are located on the X chromosome and are subject to weak selection (0.3% and 0.03%). This shows the power of hybrid zone analysis to infer targets of selection. The results are discussed in light of a theoretical chapter on the ‘inexorable spread’ phenomenon and lead to the proposal for further research into the causes of the reproductive isolation observed between the grasshopper populations.
- Theses