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Range-Wide Sex-Chromosome Sequence Similarity Supports Occasional XY Recombination in European Tree Frogs (Hyla arborea).
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In contrast with mammals and birds, most poikilothermic vertebrates feature structurally undifferentiated sex chromosomes, which may result either from frequent turnovers, or from occasional events of XY recombination. The latter mechanism was recently suggested to be responsible for sex-chromosome homomorphy in European tree frogs (Hyla arborea). However, no single case of male recombination has been identified in large-scale laboratory crosses, and populations from NW Europe consistently display sex-specific allelic frequencies with male-diagnostic alleles, suggesting the absence of recombination in their recent history. To address this apparent paradox, we extended the phylogeographic scope of investigations, by analyzing the sequences of three sex-linked markers throughout the whole species distribution. Refugial populations (southern Balkans and Adriatic coast) show a mix of X and Y alleles in haplotypic networks, and no more within-individual pairwise nucleotide differences in males than in females, testifying to recurrent XY recombination. In contrast, populations of NW Europe, which originated from a recent postglacial expansion, show a clear pattern of XY differentiation; the X and Y gametologs of the sex-linked gene Med15 present different alleles, likely fixed by drift on the front wave of expansions, and kept differentiated since. Our results support the view that sex-chromosome homomorphy in H. arborea is maintained by occasional or historical events of recombination; whether the frequency of these events indeed differs between populations remains to be clarified.
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