Intrinsic reproductive isolating mechanisms in the maintenance of a hybrid zone between ecologically divergent subspecies.


Understanding factors involved in maintaining stable hybrid zones is important for predicting the ultimate fate of the interacting taxa, but the relative importance of mechanisms such as ecological selection and intrinsic reproductive isolation remains unclear. Most studies of reproductive isolation in hybrid zones have focused either on zones with strongly bimodal patterns in genotype or phenotype frequencies, with relatively strong isolation, or unimodal zones with relatively weak isolation, whereas less is known about more intermediate classes of hybrid zone. Here, we utilize a hybrid zone of this intermediate type occurring between northern and southern subspecies of Atlantic killifish, Fundulus heteroclitus, to identify isolating mechanisms playing a role in maintaining this type of zone. The two subspecies differ in environmental tolerance, and we found some evidence of microhabitat preference between subspecies within a small tidal creek at the centre of the hybrid zone. There was also an association between sex, mitochondrial genotype and habitat within this creek. Fertilization success did not differ between consubspecific and heterosubspecific crosses, but hatching success was significantly lower for crosses involving southern males and northern females, and crosses between southern females and northern males had altered developmental rates. Southern females and northern males showed patterns consistent with positive assortative mating. Together, these results indicate a role for a combination of factors including assortative mating and/or early hybrid inviability in the maintenance of this hybrid zone and suggest that hybrid zones with intermediate levels of reproductive isolation are likely to be maintained by multiple interacting isolating mechanisms.

DOI: 10.1111/jeb.13055

Cite this paper

@article{McKenzie2017IntrinsicRI, title={Intrinsic reproductive isolating mechanisms in the maintenance of a hybrid zone between ecologically divergent subspecies.}, author={J L McKenzie and Carol Bucking and Agostinho Moreira and Patricia M Schulte}, journal={Journal of evolutionary biology}, year={2017}, volume={30 4}, pages={848-864} }