A test for meiotic drive in hybrids between Australian and Timor zebra finches

U. Knief, W. Forstmeier, Y. Pei, J. Wolf and B. Kempenaers,  Ecology and Evolution,  2020.

Meiotic drivers have been proposed as a potent evolutionary force underlying genetic and phenotypic variation, genome structure, and also speciation. Due to their strong selective advantage, they are expected to rapidly spread through a population despite potentially detrimental effects on organismal fitness. Once fixed, autosomal drivers are cryptic within populations and only become visible in between-population crosses lacking the driver or corresponding suppressor. However, the assumed ubiquity of meiotic drivers has rarely been assessed in crosses between populations or species. Here we test for meiotic drive in hybrid embryos and offspring of Timor and Australian zebra finches?subspecies that have evolved in isolation for about two million years?using 38,541 informative transmissions of 56 markers linked to either centromeres or distal chromosome ends. We did not find evidence for meiotic driver loci on specific chromosomes. However, we observed a weak overall transmission bias toward Timor alleles at centromeres in females (transmission probability of Australian alleles of 47%, nominal p = 6 ? 10?5). While this is in line with the centromere drive theory, it goes against the expectation that the subspecies with the larger effective population size (i.e., the Australian zebra finch) should have evolved the more potent meiotic drivers. We thus caution against interpreting our finding as definite evidence for centromeric drive. Yet, weak centromeric meiotic drivers may be more common than generally anticipated and we encourage further studies that are designed to detect also small effect meiotic drivers.

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