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Interspecific hybridization explains rapid gorget color divergence in Heliodoxa hummingbirds (Aves: Trochilidae)


Eliason, Chad et al. (2023), Interspecific hybridization explains rapid gorget color divergence in Heliodoxa hummingbirds (Aves: Trochilidae), Dryad, Dataset,


Hybridization is a known source of morphological, functional, and communicative signal novelty in many organisms. Although diverse mechanisms of established novel ornamentation have been identified in natural populations, we lack an understanding of hybridization effects across levels of biological scales and upon phylogenies. Hummingbirds display diverse structural colors resulting from coherent light scattering by feather nanostructures. Given the complex relationship between feather nanostructures and the colors they produce, intermediate coloration does not necessarily imply intermediate nanostructures. Here, we characterize nanostructural, ecological, and genetic inputs in a distinctive Heliodoxa hummingbird from the foothills of eastern Peru. Genetically, this individual is closely allied with Heliodoxa branickii and H. gularis, but it is not identical to either when nuclear data are assessed. Elevated interspecific heterozygosity further suggests it is a hybrid backcross to H. branickii. Electron microscopy and spectrophotometry of this unique individual reveal key nanostructural differences underlying its distinct gorget color, confirmed by optical modeling. Phylogenetic comparative analysis suggests that the observed gorget coloration divergence from both parentals to this individual would take 6.6–10 My to evolve at the current rate within a single hummingbird lineage. These results emphasize the mosaic nature of hybridization and suggest that hybridization may contribute to the structural color diversity found across hummingbirds.


National Science Foundation, Award: 2112468

National Science Foundation, Award: 1120054

National Institutes of Health, Award: 5K12GM063651-20