The Origins and Maintenance of Genomic Variation in the Threespine Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus)
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Genetic variation is the raw material of evolution. The sources of this variation within a population, and its maintenance within a species, have been mysterious since the birth of the field of evolutionary genetics. In this work, I study divergently adapted freshwater and marine populations of the threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) as an evolutionary model to track the origin of adaptive genetic variation and to describe the evolutionary processes maintaining variation across the genome. The stickleback is a small fish with a large geographic range encompassing the northern half of the Northern Hemisphere and composed of coastal marine habitats, freshwater lakes, and river systems. Populations of stickleback adapt rapidly to changes in habitat, and fossil evidence suggests that similar adaptive transitions have been ongoing in this lineage for at least ten million years. In this work, I develop a significant extension of restriction site-associated DNA sequencing (RAD-seq) to generate phased haplotype information to estimate gene tree topologies and divergence times at thousands of loci simultaneously. I find anciently derived clades of variation associated with marine and freshwater habitats in genomic regions involved in recent adaptive divergence; some divergence times extend to over ten million years ago. This history of adaptive divergence has had profound effects on genetic variation elsewhere in the genome: chromosomes harboring freshwater-adaptive variants retain anciently derived variation in linked genomic regions, while marine chromosomes have much more recent ancestry. I present a conceptual model of asymmetric selective and demographic processes to explain this result, which will form a nucleus for future research in this species. Lastly, by incorporating genome-wide recombination rates estimated from multiple genetic maps, I describe a recombination landscape that is favorable to the maintenance of marine-freshwater genomic divergence. Low recombination rates in key chromosomal regions condense widespread divergence of the physical genome, encompassing many megabases, into a small number of Mendelian loci. Combined, my results demonstrate the interconnectedness of evolutionary processes taking place on ecological and geological timescales. The genetic variation available for adaptive evolution today is a product of the long-term evolutionary history of a species.