Nater A, Burri R, Kawakami T, Smeds L, Ellegren H
Syst. Biol. 64 (6) 1000-1017 [2015-11-00; online 2015-07-19]
Using genetic data to resolve the evolutionary relationships of species is of major interest in evolutionary and systematic biology. However, reconstructing the sequence of speciation events, the so-called species tree, in closely related and potentially hybridizing species is very challenging. Processes such as incomplete lineage sorting and interspecific gene flow result in local gene genealogies that differ in their topology from the species tree, and analyses of few loci with a single sequence per species are likely to produce conflicting or even misleading results. To study these phenomena on a full phylogenomic scale, we use whole-genome sequence data from 200 individuals of four black-and-white flycatcher species with so far unresolved phylogenetic relationships to infer gene tree topologies and visualize genome-wide patterns of gene tree incongruence. Using phylogenetic analysis in nonoverlapping 10-kb windows, we show that gene tree topologies are extremely diverse and change on a very small physical scale. Moreover, we find strong evidence for gene flow among flycatcher species, with distinct patterns of reduced introgression on the Z chromosome. To resolve species relationships on the background of widespread gene tree incongruence, we used four complementary coalescent-based methods for species tree reconstruction, including complex modeling approaches that incorporate post-divergence gene flow among species. This allowed us to infer the most likely species tree with high confidence. Based on this finding, we show that regions of reduced effective population size, which have been suggested as particularly useful for species tree inference, can produce positively misleading species tree topologies. Our findings disclose the pitfalls of using loci potentially under selection as phylogenetic markers and highlight the potential of modeling approaches to disentangle species relationships in systems with large effective population sizes and post-divergence gene flow.