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Dynamics of sex chromosome evolution in a rapid radiation of cichlid fishes

By Athimed El Taher, Fabrizia Ronco, Michael Matschiner, Walter Salzburger, Astrid Boehne

Posted 23 Oct 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.23.335596

Sex is a fundamental trait that is determined, depending on the species, by different environmental and/or genetic factors, including various types of sex chromosomes. While the functioning and emergence of sex chromosomes have been explored in species scattered across the eukaryotic tree of life, little is known about tempo and mode of sex chromosome evolution in closely related species. Here, we examine the dynamics of sex chromosome evolution in an archetypical example of adaptive radiation, the cichlid fishes of African Lake Tanganyika. Through inspection of male and female genomes from 244 cichlid taxa and the analysis of transcriptomes from 66 taxa, we identify signatures of sex chromosomes in 79 taxa, involving 12 different linkage groups. We estimate that Tanganyikan cichlids have the highest rates of sex chromosome turnover and heterogamety transitions known to date. We further show that the recruitment of chromosomes as sex chromosomes is not at random and that some chromosomes have convergently emerged as sex chromosomes in cichlids, which provides empirical support to the "limited options" hypothesis of sex chromosome evolution.

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