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The two "rules of speciation," Haldane's rule (HR) and the large-X effect (LXE), are thought to be caused by recessive species incompatibilities exposed in the phenotype due to the hemizygosity of X-linked genes in the heterogametic sex. Thus, the reports of HR and the LXE in species with recently evolved non- or partially degenerate Y-chromosomes, such as Silene latifolia and its relatives, were surprising. Here, I argue that rapid species-specific degeneration of Y-linked genes and associated adjustment of expression of X-linked gametologs (dosage compensation) may lead to rapid evolution of sex-linked species incompatibilities. This process is likely to be too slow in species with old degenerate Y-chromosomes (e.g., in mammals), but Y-degeneration in species with young gene-rich sex chromosomes may be fast enough to play a significant role in speciation. To illustrate this point, I report the analysis of Y-degeneration and the associated evolution of gene expression on the X-chromosome of S. latifolia and Silene dioica, a close relative that shares the same recently evolved sex chromosomes. Despite the recent (≤1MY) divergence of the two species, ~7% of Y-linked genes have undergone degeneration in one but not the other species. This species-specific degeneration appears to drive faster expression divergence of X-linked genes, which may account for HR and the LXE reported for these species. Furthermore, I suggest that "exposure" of autosomal or sex-linked recessive species incompatibilities in the haploid plant gametophyte may mimic the presence of HR in plants. Both haploid expression and species-specific Y-degeneration need to receive more attention if we are to understand the role of these processes in speciation.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Ecol

Publication Date



Haldane's rule, Y-chromosome degeneration, faster-X effect, gametophyte, gene expression, haploid expression, large-X effect, plant sex chromosomes, speciation