Widespread chromosomal rearrangements preceded genetic divergence in a monitor lizard, Varanus acanthurus (Varanidae)

Jason Dobry, Erik Wapstra, Emily J Stringer, Bernd Gruber, Janine E Deakin, Tariq Ezaz

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Chromosomal rearrangements are often associated with local adaptation and speciation because they suppress recombination, and as a result, rearrangements have been implicated in disrupting gene flow. Although there is strong evidence to suggest that chromosome rearrangements are a factor in genetic isolation of divergent populations, the underlying mechanism remains elusive. Here, we applied an integrative cytogenetics and genomics approach testing whether chromosomal rearrangements are the initial process, or a consequence, of population divergence in the dwarf goanna, Varanus acanthurus. Specifically, we tested whether chromosome rearrangements are indicators of genetic barriers that can be used to identify divergent populations by looking at gene flow within and between populations with rearrangements. We found that gene flow was present between individuals with chromosome rearrangements within populations, but there was no gene flow between populations that had similar chromosome rearrangements. Moreover, we identified a correlation between reduced genetic variation in populations with a higher frequency of homozygous submetacentric individuals. These findings suggest that chromosomal rearrangements were widespread prior to divergence, and because we found populations with higher frequencies of submetacentric chromosomes were associated with lower genetic diversity, this could indicate that polymorphisms within populations are early indicators of genetic drift.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalChromosome Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


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