Structure of a mosaic hybrid zone between the field crickets Gryllus firmus and G. pennsylvanicus



Erica L. Larson, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca NY, 14853, USA. Tel: (607) 254 4297; Fax: (607) 255 8088;


Hybrid zones provide insight into the nature of species boundaries and the evolution of barriers to gene exchange. Characterizing multiple regions within hybrid zones is essential for understanding both their history and current dynamics. Here, we describe a previously uncharacterized region of a well-studied hybrid zone between two species of field crickets, Gryllus pennsylvanicus and G. firmus. We use a combination of mitochondrial DNA sequencing, morphological data, and modeling of environmental variables to identify the ecological factors structuring the hybrid zone and define patterns of hybridization and introgression. We find an association between species distribution and natural habitat; Gryllus pennsylvanicus occupies natural habitat along forest edges and natural clearings, whereas G. firmus occupies more disturbed areas in agricultural and suburban environments. Hybridization and introgression occur across patch boundaries; there is evidence of substantial admixture both in morphological characters and mtDNA, over a broad geographic area. Nonetheless, the distribution of morphological types is bimodal. Given that F1 hybrids are viable and fertile in the lab, this suggests that strong pre-zygotic barriers are operating in this portion of the hybrid zone.