Ghost Introgression: Spooky Gene Flow in the Distant Past

Jente Ottenburghs*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Evolution is a continuous trial and error process in which most lineages go extinct without leaving fossil remains. Many of these lineages would be closely related and occasionally hybridized with lineages that gave rise to extant species. Hence, it is likely that one can find genetic signatures of these ancient introgression events in present-day genomes, so-called ghost introgression. The increasing availability of high-quality genome assemblies for non-model organisms and the development of more sophisticated methods for detecting introgression will undoubtedly reveal more cases of ghost introgression, indicating that the Tree of Life is even more reticulated than assumed. The presence of ghost introgression has important consequences for the study of numerous evolutionary processes, including adaptation, speciation, and macroevolutionary patterns. In addition, detailed studies of introgressed regions could provide insights into the morphology of the extinct lineage, providing an unexpected link between genomics and the fossil record. Hence, new methods that take into account ghost introgression will need to be developed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2000012
Issue number6
Early online date29 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • adaptation
  • demographic modelling
  • hybridization
  • macroevolution
  • phylogenetic networks
  • reproductive isolation
  • speciation


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