Parent-of-origin growth effects and the evolution of hybrid inviability in dwarf hamsters

Thomas D. Brekke, Jeffrey M. Good

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Mammalian hybrids often show abnormal growth, indicating that developmental inviability may play an important role in mammalian speciation. Yet, it is unclear if this recurrent phenotype reflects a common genetic basis. Here, we describe extreme parent-of-origin-dependent growth in hybrids from crosses between two species of dwarf hamsters, Phodopus campbelli and Phodopus sungorus. One cross type resulted in massive placental and embryonic overgrowth, severe developmental defects, and maternal death. Embryos from the reciprocal cross were viable and normal sized, but adult hybrid males were relatively small. These effects are strikingly similar to patterns from several other mammalian hybrids. Using comparative sequence data from dwarf hamsters and several other hybridizing mammals, we argue that extreme hybrid growth can contribute to reproductive isolation during the early stages of species divergence. Next, we tested if abnormal growth in hybrid hamsters was associated with disrupted genomic imprinting. We found no association between imprinting status at several candidate genes and hybrid growth, though two interacting genes involved in embryonic growth did show reduced expression in overgrown hybrids. Collectively, our study indicates that growth-related hybrid inviability may play an important role in mammalian speciation but that the genetic underpinnings of these phenotypes remain unresolved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3134-3148
Number of pages15
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


  • Genetic imprinting
  • Haldane's rule
  • Phodopus
  • Reproductive isolation
  • Speciation


Dive into the research topics of 'Parent-of-origin growth effects and the evolution of hybrid inviability in dwarf hamsters'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this