Excessive Parallelism in Protein Evolution of Lake Baikal Amphipod Species Flock

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Repeated emergence of similar adaptations is often explained by parallel evolution of underlying genes. However, evidence of parallel evolution at amino acid level is limited. When the analyzed species are highly divergent, this can be due to epistatic interactions underlying the dynamic nature of the amino acid preferences: The same amino acid substitution may have different phenotypic effects on different genetic backgrounds. Distantly related species also often inhabit radically different environments, which makes the emergence of parallel adaptations less likely. Here, we hypothesize that parallel molecular adaptations are more prevalent between closely related species. We analyze the rate of parallel evolution in genome-size sets of orthologous genes in three groups of species with widely ranging levels of divergence: 46 species of the relatively recent lake Baikal amphipod radiation, a species flock of very closely related cichlids, and a set of significantly more divergent vertebrates. Strikingly, in genes of amphipods, the rate of parallel substitutions at nonsynonymous sites exceeded that at synonymous sites, suggesting rampant selection driving parallel adaptation. At sites of parallel substitutions, the intraspecies polymorphism is low, suggesting that parallelism has been driven by positive selection and is therefore adaptive. By contrast, in cichlids, the rate of nonsynonymous parallel evolution was similar to that at synonymous sites, whereas in vertebrates, this rate was lower than that at synonymous sites, indicating that in these groups of species, parallel substitutions are mainly fixed by drift.