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  1. The establishment of reproductive barriers between populations can fuel the evolution of new species. A genetic framework for this process posits that “incompatible” interactions between genes can evolve that result in reduced survival or reproduction in hybrids. However, progress has been slow in identifying individual genes that underlie hybrid incompatibilities. We used a combination of approaches to map the genes that drive the development of an incompatibility that causes melanoma in swordtail fish hybrids. One of the genes involved in this incompatibility also causes melanoma in hybrids between distantly related species. Moreover, this melanoma reduces survival in the wild, likely because of progressive degradation of the fin. This work identifies genes underlying a vertebrate hybrid incompatibility and provides a glimpse into the action of these genes in natural hybrid populations.