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Hybridization between mouse lemurs in an ecological transition zone in southern Madagascar


Andreas Hapke, Fax: +49 6131 39 23799; E-mail:


Hybrid zones in ecotones can be useful model systems for the study of evolutionary processes that shape the distribution and discreteness of species. Such studies could be important for an improved understanding of the complex biogeography of Madagascar, which is renowned for its outstanding degree of small-scale endemism. Certain forest remnants in central Madagascar indicate that transitional corridors across the island could have connected microendemics in different forest types in the past. Evolutionary processes in such corridors are difficult to study because most of these corridors have disappeared due to deforestation in central Madagascar. We studied a hybrid zone in one of the few remaining ecotonal corridors between dry and humid forests in Madagascar, which connects two species of mouse lemurs, Microcebus griseorufus in dry spiny forest and Microcebus murinus in humid littoral forest. We sampled 162 mouse lemurs at nine sites across this boundary. Morphometric analyses revealed intermediate morphotypes of many individuals in transitional habitat. Bayesian clustering of microsatellite genotypes and assignment tests yielded evidence for a mixed ancestry of mouse lemurs in the ecotone, where we also observed significant linkage disequilibria and heterozygote deficiency. In contrast to these observations, mitochondrial haplotypes displayed a sharply delimited boundary at the eastern edge of spiny forest, which was noncoincident with the signals from microsatellite data. Among several alternative scenarios, we propose asymmetric nuclear introgression due to male-biased dispersal, divergent environmental selection, and an expansion of dry spiny forest in the course of aridification as a probable explanation of our observations.

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