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Generation of hybrids in broadly sympatric ducks

Cite this dataset

Campagna, Leonardo (2022). Generation of hybrids in broadly sympatric ducks [Dataset]. Dryad.


Although rare, hybrids are more common in broadly sympatric waterfowl than in any other avian family; yet, the behavioral ecology explaining their generation has remained controversial. Leading hypotheses are forced interspecific copulations, mis-imprinting caused by mixed broods, and scarcity of conspecific mates. Using a large sample of hybrid ducks solicited from North American hunters we evaluated these hypotheses by genetically determining the mother and father species of F1 hybrids. Based on abundances in areas where their breeding ranges overlap, the frequency of hybrids varied greatly from expectations, with hybrids between species within recently derived clades being much more frequent than those between more divergent clades. Forced copulations, as measured by large phallus length asymmetries between parentals, strongly predicted the father species of most F1 hybrids. Thus, most Anas acuta x A. platyrhynchos (Northern Pintail x Mallard) F1s were sired by A. acuta, and most A. platyrhynchos x Mareca strepera (Mallard x Gadwall) F1s were sired by A. platyrhynchos. Siring asymmetries were consistent with phallus length asymmetries in five additional parental combinations, but none had samples large enough to be individually statistically significant. The exception to this trend was our sample of nine A. platyrhynchos x Mareca americana (Mallard x Gadwall) F1s, for which a large phallus asymmetry failed to predict the father species. Hybrids were rare in brood parasitic species, suggesting mis-imprinting to be an unlikely cause of most hybrids; however, our samples of hybrids from regular brood parasites were inadequate to strongly address this hypothesis. We could test the scarcity of mates hypothesis for only a single hybrid combination and it contradicted our prediction: most F1 M. Penelope x M. americana (Eurasian x American Wigeon) were sired by M. penelope, strongly contradicting our prediction that female M. penelope wintering in enormous flocks of M. americana (American Wigeon) on the west coast of North America would have difficulty finding conspecific mates. In general, our results support interspecific forced copulations as the predominant behavioral mechanism generating hybrids in North temperate waterfowl.


ddRAD sequencing and Sanger sequencing of mtDNA genes.