Natural hybrids between the boreal species Hexagrammos octogrammus and two temperate species Hexagrammos agrammus and Hexagrammos otakii were observed frequently in southern Hokkaido, Japan. Previous studies revealed that H. octogrammus is a maternal ancestor of both hybrids; the hybrids are all fertile females and they frequently breed with paternal species. Although such rampant hybridization occurs, species boundaries have been maintained in the hybrid zone. Possible explanations for the absence of introgressions, despite the frequent backcrossing, might include clonal reproduction: parthenogenesis, gynogenesis and hybridogenesis. The natural hybrids produced haploid eggs that contained only the H. octogrammus genome (maternal ancestor) with discarded paternal genome and generated F1-hybrid type offspring by fertilization with the haploid sperm of H. agrammus or H. otakii (paternal ancestor). This reproductive mode was found in an artificial backcross hybrid between the natural hybrid and a male of the paternal ancestor. These findings indicate that the natural hybrids adopt hybridogenesis with high possibility and produce successive generations through hybridogenesis by backcrossing with the paternal ancestor. These hybrids of Hexagrammos represent the first hybridogenetic system found from marine fishes that widely inhabit the North Pacific Ocean. In contrast with other hybridogenetic systems, these Hexagrammos hybrids coexist with all three ancestral species in the hybrid zone. The coexistence mechanism is also discussed.
- Asexual reproduction