The effect of marker choice on estimated levels of introgression across an avian (Pipridae: Manacus) hybrid zone

Tamaki Yuri, Smithsonian Institution
Robert W. Jernigan, American University
Robb T. Brumfield, Smithsonian Institution
Nirmal K. Bhagabati, Smithsonian Institution
Michael J. Braun, Smithsonian Institution


Hybrid zones are often characterized by narrow, coincident clines for diverse traits, suggesting that little introgression occurs across them. However, this pattern may result from a bias in focussing on traits that are diagnostic of parental populations. Such choice of highly differentiated traits may cause us to overlook differential introgression in nondiagnostic traits and to distort our perception of hybrid zones. We tested this hypothesis in an avian hybrid zone by comparing cline structure in two sets of molecular markers: isozyme and restriction fragment length polymorphism markers chosen for differentiation between parental forms, and microsatellite markers chosen for polymorphism. Two cline-fitting methods showed that cline centre positions of microsatellite alleles were more variable than those of isozyme and restriction fragment length polymorphism markers, and several were significantly shifted from those of the diagnostic markers. Cline widths of microsatellite alleles were also variable and two- to eightfold wider than those of the diagnostic markers. These patterns are consistent with the idea that markers chosen for differentiation are more likely to be under purifying selection, and studies focussed on these markers will underestimate overall introgression across hybrid zones. Our results suggest that neutral and positively selected alleles may introgress freely across many hybrid zones without altering perceived boundaries between hybridizing forms. © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.