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Keywords:

  • dispersion ;
  • exploration ;
  • hybridization ;
  • Mus musculus domesticus ;
  • Mus musculus musculus ;
  • open field test

Hybrid zones between genetically diverged populations are widespread among animals and plants. Their dynamics usually depend on selection against admixture and dispersal of parental forms in the zone. Although indirect estimates of selection have been the target of many studies, dispersal has been neglected. In this study we carried out open field experiments to test whether males of two house mouse subspecies, Mus musculus musculus and Mus musculus domesticus, differ in their propensity to disperse and in their character of exploration. We tested wild-caught males and males of two wild-derived inbred strains. In addition, we examined reciprocal F1 crosses to test the prediction that these hybrids display intermediate behaviours. We revealed that M. m. musculus males were less hesitant to enter the experimental arena than were M. m. domesticus males, but once inside the arena their movements were more timid. F1 males differed from both parental strains, with longer latencies to enter the arena, but explored the arena in a similar fashion as the M. m. domesticus males, thus displaying transgressive behavioural phenotypes. These results contribute to our knowledge of behavioural divergence between the mouse subspecies, and add a new facet to the study of speciation. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, ●●, ●●–●●.