Hybridization between multiple fence lizard lineages in an ecotone: locally discordant variation in mitochondrial DNA, chromosomes, and morphology



    1. Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and Department of Integrative Biology, 3101 Valley Life Sciences Building, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3160, USA,
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    1. Department of Herpetology, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY 10024-5192, USA
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    • Present address: 6381 W. Sweetwater Drive, Tucson, AZ 85745, USA

Adam D. Leaché, Fax: 510-643-8238; E-mail: leache@berkeley.edu


We investigated a hybrid zone between two major lineages of fence lizards (Sceloporus cowlesi and Sceloporus tristichus) in the Sceloporus undulatus species complex in eastern Arizona. This zone occurs in an ecotone between Great Basin Grassland and Conifer Woodland habitats. We analysed spatial variation in mtDNA (N = 401; 969 bp), chromosomes (N = 217), and morphology (N = 312; 11 characters) to characterize the hybrid zone and assess species limits. A fine-scale population level phylogenetic analysis refined the boundaries between these species and indicated that four nonsister mtDNA clades (three belonging to S. tristichus and one to S. cowlesi) are sympatric at the centre of the zone. Estimates of cytonuclear disequilibria in the population closest to the centre of the hybrid zone suggest that the S. tristichus clades are randomly mating, but that the S. cowlesi haplotype has a significant nonrandom association with nuclear alleles. Maximum-likelihood cline-fitting analyses suggest that the karyotype, morphology, and dorsal colour pattern clines are all coincident, but the mtDNA cline is skewed significantly to the south. A temporal comparison of cline centres utilizing karyotype data collected in the early 1970s and in 2002 suggests that the cline may have shifted by approximately 1.5 km to the north over a 30-year period. The recent northward expansion of juniper trees into the Little Colorado River Basin resulting from intense cattle overgrazing provides a plausible mechanism for a shifting hybrid zone and the introgression of the mtDNA haplotypes, which appear to be selectively neutral. It is clear that complex interactions are operating simultaneously in this contact zone, including the formation of hybrids between populations within S. tristichus having diagnostic mtDNA, morphology, karyotypes, and dorsal colour patterns, and secondary contact between these and a distantly related yet morphologically cryptic mtDNA lineage (S. cowlesi).