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The Dynamic GenomeA Darwinian Approach$
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Antonio Fontdevila

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199541379

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199541379.001.0001

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The horizontal genome

The horizontal genome

(p.116) Chapter 4 The horizontal genome
The Dynamic Genome

Antonio Fontdevila

Oxford University Press

This chapter reports data, mainly from comparative genomics, which confirm a long-suspected high rate of interspecies gene flow due to hybridisation. It also reports the present interest in hybrids because of the recently documented hybrid origin of many species. However, sex is not the only mechanism to exchange genetic material among species. This chapter describes how horizontal gene transfer is a major mechanism that shapes the prokaryote genome, and a common mechanism in the eukaryotic world. Since reproductive isolation cannot often constitute an efficient barrier to preserve species identity, other mechanisms must be at work. This chapter argues that natural selection and genetic drift, acting at times in concert with reproductive isolation, are main factors that define the species borders in face of gene exchange among species. The chapter concludes that the ubiquity of gene flow and horizontal transfer may allow us to talk of the ‘web of life’.

Keywords:   gene flow, hybrids, horizontal gene transfer, reproductive isolation, natural selection, genetic drift, web of life

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