Navigation Links
UT researcher sheds new light on hybrid animals
Date:9/17/2007

KNOXVILLE -- What began more than 50 years ago as a way to improve fishing bait in California has led a University of Tennessee researcher to a significant finding about how animal species interact and that raises important questions about conservation.

In the middle of the 20th century, local fishermen who relied on baby salamanders as bait introduced a new species of salamander to California water bodies. These Barred Tiger salamanders came into contact with the native California Tiger salamanders, and over time the two species began to mate.

"To give you a sense of the difference between these two species, they are about as closely related as humans and chimpanzees," said UT assistant professor Ben Fitzpatrick, a faculty member in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Mating between two different species creates a hybrid offspring. According to Fitzpatrick, while such hybrids have been found to be successful in plant species, research has generally shown that animal hybrids are not able to sustain themselves -- in scientific terms, they lack "fitness."

This understanding made Fitzpatrick's findings especially surprising when he looked at the offspring of the two salamander species in California. He and colleague Bradley Shaffer of the University of California, Davis, found that the new hybrid salamanders were not only surviving, but in some cases, thriving.

"I thought I was studying hybrid dysfunction going into this study -- looking at how hybrids go wrong," said Fitzpatrick. "The level of vigor in these hybrids was completely unexpected."

Their research, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency, will appear in the upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It is among the first to show hybrid vigor among animal species, and Fitzpatrick noted that the work raises a number of questions for conservationists.

The California Tiger salamander, which is native to the area of the study, is listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, while the Barred Tiger salamander is not. The data in the article lead the researchers to predict that eventually all California Tiger salamanders will have some of the non-native genes. In a sense, the entire species would then have hybrid ancestry.

According to Fitzpatrick, the finding raises questions about whether this would be considered beneficial to the native species or not -- it depends on how conservationists choose to define the new hybrid.

"If they consider it an acceptable modification of the original species, then this could enhance the chances for survival of the California Tiger salamander," he said, "but others may consider the hybrids to be genetically impure and see hybridization as accelerating extinction."

It is not yet clear from the research what is causing the hybrids to thrive.

"Our prediction is that, because of their advantages, the hybrids will remain part of the gene pool," said Fitzpatrick. "What we don't know is if those advantages come from the synergistic interaction of certain genes -- that they are greater than the sum of their parts -- or if they simply get the 'best of both worlds' by a selection of useful individual traits from each species."

Because the research is in such early stages, Fitzpatrick and colleagues plan to broaden their study of these salamanders, and also explore the implications of these vigorous hybrids for other animals in their ecosystem.

They have expanded the number of genetic markers that they are analyzing in the hybrids to determine the extent of their genetic mixing. Given that the new hybrids are finding more success in their environment, the researchers also plan to study whether their success is reducing food supply or other resources from native species in the area.

Fitzpatrick notes that their discoveries place the work on the leading edge of hybridization studies.

"We're right at the front in thinking that these ideas may be much more generally applicable," he said. He pointed to two other studies in recent months that have explored the issue of hybridization in butterflies.


'/>"/>

Contact: Jay Mayfield
jay.mayfield@tennessee.edu
865-974-9409
University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Researchers discover way to make cells in the eye sensitive to light
2. Researchers find how protein allows insects to detect and respond to pheromones
3. Researchers Uncover Key Step In Manufacture of Memory Protein
4. U of M researcher examines newly emerging deadly disease
5. NYU researchers simulate molecular biological clock
6. Researchers reveal the infectious impact of salmon farms on wild salmon
7. Researchers identify target for cancer drugs
8. Vital step in cellular migration described by UCSD medical researchers
9. ASU researchers finds novel chemistry at work to provide parrots vibrant red colors
10. UCSD researchers maintain stem cells without contaminated animal feeder layers
11. Researchers discover molecule that causes secondary stroke
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/2/2016)... YORK , Feb. 2, 2016 ... of the bioinformatic market by reviewing the recent ... enabled tools that drive the field forward. Includes ... to: Identify the challenges and opportunities that ... providers and software solution developers, as well as ...
(Date:2/2/2016)... Feb. 2, 2016  Based on its recent ... Sullivan recognizes US-based Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems (IRIS) ... Award for New Product Innovation. IRIS, a prominent ... North America , is poised to set ... diabetic retinopathy market. The IRIS technology presents superior ...
(Date:1/28/2016)... Synaptics (NASDAQ: SYNA ), a leading developer of ... ended December 31, 2015. --> ... increased 2 percent compared to the comparable quarter last year to ... was $35.0 million, or $0.93 per diluted share. ... first quarter of fiscal 2016 grew 9 percent over the prior ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/4/2016)... , February 4, 2016 - New FDA action ... - New FDA action date of July 22, ... July 22, 2016   - ... in the past decade indicated for the treatment of signs and symptoms of ... has the potential to be the only product approved in the U.S. in ...
(Date:2/4/2016)... -- Beike Biotechnology, the Shenzhen ... in late 2015 to mark their successful combined efforts ... --> --> The signing, ... Therapy" was hosted by the Shenzhen Cell Bank and ... Beike Biotechnology Co., Ltd. Shenzhen,s ...
(Date:2/4/2016)... 2016 ContraVir Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: CTRV ... commercialization of targeted antiviral therapies, announced today that it ... to be held February 8-9, 2016, at the Waldorf ... Growth & Healthcare Conference, taking place in ... James Sapirstein , Chief Executive Officer of ContraVir, ...
(Date:2/4/2016)... 2016 Strasbourg, France , ... --> Strasbourg, France , to the US ... is pleased to announce that it acted as an advisor ... in Strasbourg, France , to the US ... --> Transgene (Euronext: TNG), a member of ...
Breaking Biology Technology: