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The tempo and mode of evolutionary change during speciation have remained contentious until recently. While much of the evidence claiming speciation is an abrupt and rapid process comes from fossil data, recent molecular phylogenetics show that the background of gradual evolution is often broken by accelerated rates of molecular evolution during speciation. However, what kinds of genes affect or are affected by speciation remains unexplored. Our analysis of 4843 protein-coding genes in five species of the Drosophila melanogaster subgroup shows that while ~70% of genes follow clock-like evolution, between 17-19.67% of loci show signatures of accelerated rates of evolution in recently formed species. These genes show 2-3-fold higher rates of substitution in recently diverged species compared to older species. This fraction of loci affects a diverse range of functions. Only a small proportion of reproductive genes experience speciation-related accelerated changes but many sex-and -reproduction related genes show an interesting pattern of persistent rapid evolution suggesting that sex-and-reproduction related genes are under constant selective pressures. The identification of loci associated with accelerated evolution allows us to address the mechanisms of rapid evolution and speciation, which in our study appears to be a combination of both selection and rapid demographical changes.

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Journal article


Int J Evol Biol

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