Understanding genetic causes and effects of speciation in sympatric populations of sexually reproducing eukaryotes is challenging, controversial, and of practical importance for controlling rapidly evolving pests and pathogens. The major African malaria vector mosquito Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto (s.s.) is considered to contain two incipient species with strong reproductive isolation, hybrids between the M and S molecular forms being very rare. Following recent observations of higher proportions of hybrid forms at a few sites in West Africa, we conducted new surveys of 12 sites in four contiguous countries (The Gambia, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, and Republic of Guinea). Identification and genotyping of 3499 A. gambiae s.s. revealed high frequencies of M/S hybrid forms at each site, ranging from 5 to 42%, and a large spectrum of inbreeding coefficient values from 0.11 to 0.76, spanning most of the range expected between the alternative extremes of panmixia and assortative mating. Year-round sampling over 2 years at one of the sites in The Gambia showed that M/S hybrid forms had similar relative frequencies throughout periods of marked seasonal variation in mosquito breeding and abundance. Genome-wide scans with an Affymetrix high-density single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) microarray enabled replicate comparisons of pools of different molecular forms, in three separate populations. These showed strong differentiation between M and S forms only in the pericentromeric region of the X chromosome that contains the molecular form-specific marker locus, with only a few other loci showing minor differences. In the X chromosome, the M/S hybrid forms were more differentiated from M than from S forms, supporting a hypothesis of asymmetric introgression and backcrossing.
- Received September 19, 2012.
- Accepted January 13, 2013.
- Copyright © 2013 by the Genetics Society of America
Available freely online through the author-supported open access option.