Genome Biol Evol 15 (5) - [2023-05-05; online 2023-04-30]
Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) and Pacific herring (C. pallasii) are sister species that split from a common ancestor about 2 million years ago. Balsfjord, a subarctic fjord in Northern Norway, harbors an outpost population of Pacific herring within the range of the Atlantic herring. We used whole genome sequencing to show that gene flow from Atlantic herring into the Balsfjord population has generated a stable hybrid population that has persisted for thousands of generations. The Atlantic herring ancestry in Balsfjord was estimated in the range 25-26%. The old age and large proportion of introgressed regions suggest there are no obvious genetic incompatibilities between species. Introgressed regions were widespread in the genome and large, with some in excess of 1 Mb, and they were overrepresented in low-recombination regions. We show that the distribution of introgressed material is non-random; introgressed sequence blocks in different individuals are shared more often than expected by chance. Furthermore, introgressed regions tend to show elevated divergence (FST) between Atlantic and Pacific herring. Together, our results suggest that introgression of genetic material has facilitated adaptation in the Balsfjord population. The Balsfjord population provides a rare example of a stable interspecies hybrid population that has persisted over thousands of years.