Hybridization is recognized as a powerful mechanism of speciation and a driving force in generating biodiversity. However, only few multicellular species, limited to a handful of plants and animals, have been shown to fulfil all the criteria of homoploid hybrid speciation. This lack of evidence could lead to the interpretation that speciation by hybridization has a limited role in eukaryotes, particularly in single-celled organisms. Laboratory experiments have revealed that fungi such as budding yeasts can rapidly develop reproductive isolation and novel phenotypes through hybridization, showing that in principle homoploid speciation could occur in nature. Here, we report a case of homoploid hybrid speciation in natural populations of the budding yeast Saccharomyces paradoxus inhabiting the North American forests. We show that the rapid evolution of chromosome architecture and an ecological context that led to secondary contact between nascent species drove the formation of an incipient hybrid species with a potentially unique ecological niche.
Via Francis Martin