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Risk and efficacy of human-enabled interspecific hybridization for climate-change adaptation: Response to Hamilton and Miller (2016)

March 1, 2016

Hamilton and Miller (2016) provide an interesting and provocative discussion of how hybridization and introgression can promote evolutionary potential in the face of climate change. They argue that hybridization—mating between individuals from genetically distinct populations—can alleviate inbreeding depression and promote adaptive introgression and evolutionary rescue. We agree that deliberate intraspecific hybridization (mating between individuals of the same species) is an underused management tool for increasing fitness in inbred populations (i.e., genetic rescue; Frankham 2015; Whiteley et al. 2015). The potential risks and benefits of assisted gene flow have been discussed in the literature, and an emerging consensus suggests that mating between populations isolated for approximately 50–100 generations can benefit fitness, often with a minor risk of outbreeding depression (Frankham et al. 2011; Aitken & Whitlock 2013; Allendorf et al. 2013).