Spatio-temporal dynamics of the Allonemobius fasciatus A. socius mosaic hybrid zone: a 14-year perspective


S. C. Britch. Fax: (505) 646–5665;


Long-term studies of hybrid zones can provide valuable insight into a number of questions that have long attracted the attention of evolutionists. These questions range from the stability and fate of hybrid zones to the relative fitness of hybrids. In this paper we report the results of a 14-year survey of the Allonemobius fasciatus–Allonemobius socius hybrid zone. Populations were collected intensively in 1986 and 1987 and then more sporadically through the end of the 1980s and throughout the 1990s. By documenting changes in the genetic composition of populations near and within the zone during this period of time we assessed: the strength of the reproductive isolation between the two species; the relative growth rates (which can be considered a surrogate of relative fitness) of genotype classes corresponding to hybrids and to pure species individuals; and, the power of single-year and multi-year measurements of relative growth rates to predict changes in the genetic composition of mixed populations through time. In brief, we found very large year-to-year variation in the relative growth rates of pure species and hybrid individuals. This variation may reflect the fact that both species are at the edge of their range and perhaps at the limits of their ability to deal with environmental perturbations. As a consequence of the variation, even multi-year estimates of relative growth rates often provided imprecise predictions regarding the future genotypic composition of mixed populations. Despite our limited ability to predict the dynamics of individual populations, some trends are apparent. A. socius, the southern species, has clearly increased in frequency along a transect through the Appalachian Mountains, indicating that the zone is moving north in this region. In contrast, the zone appeared to be more stable along the East Coast transect. Within mixed populations, character-index profiles are often bimodal and stable through time, indicating relatively strong reproductive isolation between the two species that is not being reinforced, nor is it breaking down.