Dosage compensation balances gene expression between the sexes in systems with diverged heterogametic sex chromosomes. Theory predicts that dosage compensation should rapidly evolve in parallel with the divergence of sex chromosomes to prevent the deleterious effects of dosage imbalances that occur as a result of sex chromosome divergence. Examples of complete dosage compensation, where gene expression of the entire sex chromosome is compensated, are rare and have only been found in relatively ancient sex chromosome systems. Consequently, very little is known about the evolutionary dynamics of complete dosage compensation systems. We recently found the first example of complete dosage compensation in a fish, Poecilia picta. We also found that the Y chromosome degraded substantially in the common ancestor of P. picta and their close relative Poecilia parae. In this study we find that P. parae also have complete dosage compensation, thus complete dosage compensation likely evolved in the short (∼3.7 my) interval after the split of the ancestor of these two species from P. reticulata, but before they diverged from each other. These data suggest that novel dosage compensation mechanisms can evolve rapidly, thus supporting the longstanding theoretical prediction that such mechanisms arise in parallel with rapidly diverging sex chromosomes.
In species with XY sex chromosomes, females (XX) have as many copies of X-linked genes compared to males (XY), leading to unbalanced expression between the sexes. Theory predicts that dosage compensation mechanisms should evolve rapidly as X and Y chromosomes diverge, but examples of complete dosage compensation in recently diverged sex chromosomes are scarce, making this theory difficult to test. Across Poeciliid species the X and Y chromosomes have recently diversified. Here we find complete dosage compensation evolved rapidly as the X and Y diverged in the common ancestor of Poecilia parae and P. picta, supporting that novel dosage compensation mechanisms can evolve rapidly in tandem with diverging sex chromosomes. These data confirm longstanding theoretical predictions of sex chromosome evolution.