Unequal rates of Y chromosome gene divergence during speciation of the family Ursidae

  • Nakagome S
  • Pecon-Slattery J
  • Masuda R
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Evolution of the bear family Ursidae is well investigated in terms of morphological, paleontological, and genetic features. However, several phylogenetic ambiguities occur within the subfamily Ursinae (the family Ursidae excluding the giant panda and spectacled bear), which may correlate with behavioral traits of female philopatry and male-biased dispersal which form the basis of the observed matriarchal population structure in these species. In the process of bear evolution, we investigate the premise that such behavioral traits may be reflected in patterns of variation among genes with different modes of inheritance: matrilineal mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), patrilineal Y chromosome, biparentally inherited autosomes, and the X chromosome. In the present study, we sequenced 3 Y-linked genes (3,453 bp) and 4 X-linked genes (4,960 bp) and reanalyzed previously published sequences from autosome genes (2,347 bp) in ursid species to investigate differences in evolutionary rates associated with patterns of inheritance. The results describe topological incongruence between sex-linked genes and autosome genes and between nuclear DNA and mtDNA. In more ancestral branches within the bear phylogeny, Y-linked genes evolved faster than autosome and X-linked genes, consistent with expectations based on male-driven evolution. However, this pattern changes among branches leading to each species within the lineage of Ursinae whereby the evolutionary rates of Y-linked genes have fewer than expected substitutions. This inconsistency between more recent nodes of the bear phylogeny with more ancestral nodes may reflect the influences of sex-biased dispersal as well as molecular evolutionary characteristics of the Y chromosome, and stochastic events in species natural history, and phylogeography unique to ursine bears.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Female philopatry
  • Male-biased dispersal
  • Matriarchal structure
  • Sex-linked genes
  • Ursidae

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  • Shigeki Nakagome

  • Jill Pecon-Slattery

  • Ryuichi Masuda

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