Taylor EB, Boughman JW, Groenenboom M, Sniatynksi M, Schluter D & Gow J (2006) Speciation in reverse: morphological and genetic evidence of the collapse of a stickleback species pair (Gasterosteus). Molecular Ecology 15:343-355.

Historically, six small lakes in southwestern British Columbia each contained a sympatric species pair of three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus). These pairs consisted of a ‘benthic’ and ‘limnetic’ species that had arisen postglacially and, in four of the lakes, independently. Sympatric sticklebacks are considered biological species because they are morphologically, ecologically and genetically distinct and because they are strongly reproductively isolated from one another. The restricted range of the species pairs places them at risk of extinction, and one of the pairs has gone extinct after the introduction of an exotic catfish. In another lake, Enos Lake, southeastern Vancouver Island, an earlier report suggested that its species pair is at risk from elevated levels of hybridization. We conducted a detailed morphological analysis, as well as genetic analysis of variation at five microsatellite loci for samples spanning a time frame of 1977 to 2002 to test the hypothesis that the pair in Enos Lake is collapsing into a hybrid swarm. Our morphological analysis showed a clear breakdown between benthics and limnetics. Bayesian model-based clustering indicated that two morphological clusters were evident in 1977 and 1988, which were replaced by 1997 by a single highly variable cluster. The most recent 2000 and 2002 samples confirm the breakdown. Microsatellite analysis corroborated the morphological results. Bayesian analyses of population structure in a sample collected in 1994 indicated two genetically distinct populations in Enos Lake, but only a single genetic population was evident in 1997, 2000, and 2002. In addition, genetic analyses of samples collected in 1997, 2000, and 2002 showed strong signals of ‘hybrids’; they were genetically intermediate to parental genotypes. Our results support the idea that the Enos Lake species pair is collapsing into a hybrid swarm. Although the precise mechanism(s) responsible for elevated hybridization in the lake is unknown, the demise of the Enos Lake species pair follows the appearance of an exotic crayfish, Pascifasticus lenisculus, in the early 1990s.



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