The role of introgression and ecotypic parallelism in delineating intraspecific conservation units
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Parallel evolution can occur through selection on novel mutations, standing genetic variation or adaptive introgression. Uncovering parallelism and introgressed populations can complicate management of threatened species as parallelism may have influenced conservation unit designations and admixed populations are not generally considered under legislations. We examined high coverage whole-genome sequences of 30 caribou (Rangifer tarandus) from across North America and Greenland, representing divergent intraspecific lineages, to investigate parallelism and levels of introgression contributing to the formation of ecotypes. Caribou are split into four subspecies and 11 extant conservation units, known as designatable units (DUs), in Canada. Using genomes from all four subspecies and six DUs, we undertake demographic reconstruction and confirm two previously inferred instances of parallel evolution in the woodland subspecies and uncover an additional instance of parallelism of the eastern migratory ecotype. Detailed investigations reveal introgression in the woodland subspecies, with introgressed regions found spread throughout the genomes encompassing both neutral and functional sites. Our investigations using whole genomes highlight the difficulties in unequivocally demonstrating parallelism through adaptive introgression in nonmodel species with complex demographic histories, with standing variation and introgression both potentially involved. Additionally, the impact of parallelism and introgression on conservation policy for management units needs to be considered in general, and the caribou designations will need amending in light of our results. Uncovering and decoupling parallelism and differential patterns of introgression will become prevalent with the availability of comprehensive genomic data from nonmodel species, and we highlight the need to incorporate this into conservation unit designations.
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