Most evolutionary theory focuses on species that reproduce through sexual reproduction where both sexes have a diploid chromosome count. Yet a substantial proportion of multicellular species display complex life cycles, with both haploid and diploid life stages. A classic example is haplodiploidy, where females develop from fertilized eggs and are diploid, while males develop from unfertilized eggs and are haploid. Although haplodiploids make up about 15% of all animals (de la Filia et al. 2015), this type of reproduction is rarely considered in evolutionary theory. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Patten et al. (2015) develop a theoretical model to compare the rate of nuclear and mitochondrial introgression in haplodiploid and diploid species. They show that when two haplodiploid species hybridize, nuclear genes are much less likely to cross the species barrier than if both species were to be diploids. The reason for this is that only half of the offspring resulting from matings between haplodiploid species are true hybrids: sons from such mating only inherit their mother genes and therefore only contain genes of the maternal species. Truly, hybrid males can only occur through backcrossing of a hybrid female to a male of one of the parental species. While this twist of haplodiploid transmission genetics limits nuclear introgression, mitochondrial genes, which are maternally inherited, are unaffected by the scarcity of hybrid males. In other words, the rate of mitochondrial introgression is the same for haplodiploid and diploid species. As a result, haplodiploid species on average show a bias of mitochondrial compared to nuclear introgression.
- comparative biology
- population genetics -theoretical biology