Natural hybridization generates mammalian lineage with species characteristics

Peter A. Larsen, María R. Marchán-Rivadeneira, Robert J. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Most diploid species arise from single-species ancestors. Hybrid origins of new species are uncommon (except among polyploids) and are documented infrequently in animals. Examples of natural hybridization leading to speciation in mammals are exceedingly rare. Here, we show a Caribbean species of bat (Artibeus schwartzi) has a nuclear genome derived from two nonsister but congeneric species (A. jamaicensis and A. planirostris) and a mitochondrial genome that is from a third extinct or uncharacterized congener. Artibeus schwartzi is self-sustaining, morphologically distinct, and exists in near geographic isolation of its known parent species. Island effects (i.e., area, reduced habitat variability, and geographic isolation) likely have restricted gene flowfrom parental species into the Caribbean populations of this hybrid lineage, thus contributing to local adaptation and isolation of this newly produced taxon. We hypothesize differential rates of the development of reproductive isolation within the genus and estimate that 2.5 million years was an insufficient amount of time for the development of postzygotic isolation among the three species that hybridized to produce A. schwartzi. Reticulated evolution thus has resulted in a genomiccombination from three evolutionary lineages and a transgressive phenotype that is distinct from all other known species of Artibeus. The data herein further demonstrate the phenomenon of speciation by hybridization in mammals is possible in nature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11447-11452
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number25
StatePublished - Jun 22 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Artibeus
  • Chiroptera
  • Hybrid speciation
  • Reticulate evolution
  • Transgressive segregation


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