Mating system transitions dramatically alter the evolutionary trajectories of genomes that can be revealed by contrasts of species with disparate modes of reproduction. For such transitions in Caenorhabditis nematodes, some major causes of genome variation in selfing species have been discerned. And yet, we have only limited understanding of species-wide population genetic processes for their outcrossing relatives, which represent the reproductive state of the progenitors of selfing species. Multilocus–multipopulation sequence polymorphism data provide a powerful means to uncover the historical demography and evolutionary processes that shape genomes. Here we survey nucleotide polymorphism across the X chromosome for three populations of the outcrossing nematode Caenorhabditis remanei and demonstrate its divergence from a fourth population describing a closely related new species from China, C. sp. 23. We find high genetic variation globally and within each local population sample. Despite geographic barriers and moderate genetic differentiation between Europe and North America, considerable gene flow connects C. remanei populations. We discovered C. sp. 23 while investigating C. remanei, observing strong genetic differentiation characteristic of reproductive isolation that was confirmed by substantial F2 hybrid breakdown in interspecific crosses. That C. sp. 23 represents a distinct biological species provides a cautionary example of how standard practice can fail for mating tests of species identity in this group. This species pair permits full application of divergence population genetic methods to obligately outcrossing species of Caenorhabditis and also presents a new focus for interrogation of the genetics and evolution of speciation with the Caenorhabditis model system.
- Received March 9, 2012.
- Accepted May 8, 2012.
- Copyright © 2012 by the Genetics Society of America