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Gene could drive species separation

Gene in fruit flies may engage in ‘genetic warfare’ that causes speciation

1:49pm, December 11, 2008

A newly identified gene in fruit flies may drive the creation of new species, revealing how internal genetic environments may be just as important as external factors when it comes to speciation. The new work lends evidence to a hotly debated idea in evolutionary biology.

“Conventionally, evolutionary biologists thought that speciation involved adaptation to the external environment, but these results suggest that adaptation to the internal genomic environment also sometimes plays a role,” explains study author Nitin Phadnis of the University of Rochester in New York.

Phadnis and colleague H. Allen Orr identified a gene — dubbed Overdrive — that prevents two closely related subspecies of fruit flies from mingling genomes. The gene does this in two ways: It forces hybrids of the two subspecies of flies to be predominantly female, and it renders the male hybrids sterile. Both of these genetic tricks could ultimately fracture one spe

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