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Data from: Wide prevalence of hybridization in two sympatric grasshopper species may be shaped by their relative abundances

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Rohde, Katja; Hau, Yvonne; Weyer, Jessica; Hochkirch, Axel (2015). Data from: Wide prevalence of hybridization in two sympatric grasshopper species may be shaped by their relative abundances [Dataset]. Dryad.


Background: Hybridization between species is of conservation concern as it might threaten the genetic integrity of species. Anthropogenic factors can alter hybridization dynamics by introducing new potentially hybridizing species or by diminishing barriers to hybridization. This may even affect sympatric species pairs through environmental change, which so far has received little attention. We studied hybridization prevalence and the underlying behavioral mechanisms in two sympatric grasshopper species, a rare specialist (Chorthippus montanus) and a common generalist (Chorthippus parallelus). We conducted a mate choice experiment with constant intraspecific density and varying heterospecific density, i.e. varying relative frequency of both species. Results: Mate choice was frequency-dependent in both species with a higher risk of cross-mating with increasing heterospecific frequency, while conspecific mating increased linearly with increasing conspecific density. This illustrates that reproductive barriers could be altered by environmental change, if the relative frequency of species pairs is affected. Moreover, we performed a microsatellite analysis to detect hybridization in twelve syntopic populations (and four allotopic populations). Hybrids were detected in nearly all syntopic populations with hybridization rates reaching up to 8.9%. Genetic diversity increased for both species when hybrids were included in the data set, but only in the common species a positive correlation between hybridization rate and genetic diversity was detected. Conclusion: Our study illustrates that the relative frequency of the two species strongly determines the effectiveness of reproductive barriers and that even the more choosy species (Ch. montanus) may face a higher risk of hybridization if population size decreases and its relative frequency becomes low compared to its sister species. The asymmetric mate preferences of both species may lead to quasi-unidirectional gene flow caused by unidirectional backcrossing. This might explain why genetic diversity increased only in the common species, but not in the rare one. Altogether, the hybridization rate was much higher than expected for a widely sympatric species pair.

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Hunsrueck Mountains
Hunsrueck Mountains Rhineland-Palatinate Germany