Fractious chromosomes: hybrid disruption and the origin of selfish genetic elements.
Supernumerary B chromosomes are dispensable elements of the genome which can be retained in populations at high frequencies, despite being deleterious, through the ability to undergo non-Mendelian inheritance. Their mode of origin is, however, obscure. Recent work on gynogenetic fish has demonstrated the incorporation of small, unstable, centromere-containing microchromosomes, probably of interspecific derivation, into an asexual lineage (1). That these resemble B chromosomes both in structure and behaviour is consistent with the proposal that hybridisation between closely related species may be a significant mode of origin for such selfish genetic elements. Additional work on the B chromosome of a parasitoid wasp and observations on patterns of chromosome breakage from somatic cell hybrids also support this hypothesis.