Just-arrived postdoc Daniel Hooper has a paper from his dissertation newly out in Nature Ecology and Evolution entitled Chromosomal inversion differences correlate with range overlap in passerine birds. Abstract is copied below, but his ‘behind the paper’ article in the same issue is also very much worth a read.
Abstract: Chromosomal inversions evolve frequently but the reasons for this remain unclear. We used cytological descriptions of 411 species of passerine birds to identify large pericentric inversion differences between species, based on the position of the centromere. Within 81 small clades comprising 284 of the species, we found 319 differences on the 9 largest autosomes combined, 56 on the Z chromosome, and 55 on the W chromosome. We also identified inversions present within 32 species. Using a new fossil-calibrated phylogeny, we examined the phylogenetic, demographic and genomic context in which these inversions have evolved. The number of inversion differences between closely related species is consistently predicted by whether the ranges of species overlap, even when time is controlled for as far as is possible. Fixation rates vary across the autosomes, but inversions are more likely to be fixed on the Z chromosome than the average autosome. Variable mutagenic input alone (estimated by chromosome size, map length, GC content or repeat density) cannot explain the differences between chromosomes in the number of inversions fixed. Together, these results support a model in which inversions increase because of their effects on recombination suppression in the face of hybridization. Other factors associated with hybridization may also contribute, including the possibility that inversions contain incompatibility alleles, making taxa less likely to collapse following secondary contact.