Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Genetic and morphological evidence of a geographically widespread hybrid zone between two crocodile species, Crocodylus acutus and Crocodylus moreletii

Citation

Pacheco-Sierra, Gualberto; Gompert, Zachariah; Domínguez-Laso, Jerónimo; Vázquez-Domínguez, Ella (2016), Data from: Genetic and morphological evidence of a geographically widespread hybrid zone between two crocodile species, Crocodylus acutus and Crocodylus moreletii, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.3780c

Abstract

Hybrid zones represent natural laboratories to study gene flow, divergence and the nature of species boundaries between closely related taxa. We evaluated the level and extent of hybridization between Crocodylus moreletii and C. acutus using genetic and morphological data on 300 crocodiles from 65 localities. To our knowledge, this is the first genetic study that includes the entire historic range and sympatric zone of the two species. Contrary to expectations, Bayesian admixture proportions and maximum likelihood estimates of hybrid indexes revealed that most sampled crocodiles were admixed and that the hybrid zone is geographically extensive, extending well beyond their historical region of sympatry. We identified a few geographically isolated, non-admixed populations of both parental species. Hybrids do not appear to be F1s or recent backcrosses, but rather are more likely later-generation hybrids, suggesting that hybridization has been going on for several to many generations and is mostly the result of natural processes. C. moreletii is not the sister species of C. acutus, suggesting that the hybrid zone formed from secondary contact rather than primary divergence. Non-admixed individuals from the two species were distinguishable based on morphological characters, whereas hybrids had a complex mosaic of morphological characters that hinders identification in the wild. Very few non-admixed C. acutus and C. moreletii populations exist in the wild. Consequently, the last non-admixed C. moreletii populations have become critically endangered. Indeed, not only the parental species but also the naturally occurring hybrids should be considered for their potential conservation value.

Usage Notes

Location

Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean