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Genetic admixture despite ecological segregation in a North African sparrow hybrid zone (Aves, Passeriformes, Passer domesticus x Passer hispaniolensis)

Citation

Päckert, Martin et al. (2020), Genetic admixture despite ecological segregation in a North African sparrow hybrid zone (Aves, Passeriformes, Passer domesticus x Passer hispaniolensis), Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.v9s4mw6qf

Abstract

Under different environmental conditions hybridization between the same species might result in different patterns of genetic admixture. Particularly, species pairs with large distribution ranges and long evolutionary history may have experienced several independent hybridization events over time in different zones of overlap. In birds, the diverse hybrid populations of the house sparrow (Passer domesticus) and the Spanish sparrow (P. hispaniolensis) provide a striking example. Throughout their range of sympatry, these two species do not regularly interbreed, however a stabilized hybrid form (P. italiae) exists on the Italian Peninsula and on several Mediterranean islands. The spatial distribution pattern on the Eurasian continent strongly contrasts the situation in North Africa, where house sparrows and Spanish sparrows occur in close vicinity of phenotypically intermediate populations across a broad mosaic hybrid zone. In this study, we investigate patterns of divergence and admixture among the two parental species, stabilized and non-stabilized hybrid populations in Italy and Algeria based on a mitochondrial marker, a sex-chromosomal marker and 12 microsatellite loci. In Algeria, despite strong spatial and temporal separation of urban early-breeding house sparrows and hybrids and rural late-breeding Spanish sparrows, we found strong genetic admixture of mitochondrial and nuclear markers across all study populations and phenotypes. That pattern of admixture in the North African hybrid zone is strikingly different from i) the Iberian area of sympatry where we observed only weak asymmetrical introgression of Spanish sparrow nuclear alleles into local house sparrow populations, and ii) from the very homogenous Italian sparrow population where the mitogenome of one parent (P. domesticus) and the Z-chromosomal marker of the other parent (P. hispaniolensis) is fixed. The North African sparrow hybrids provide a further example of enhanced hybridization along with recent urbanization and anthropogenic land-use changes in a mosaic landscape.