Increasing evidence of the role of gene flow in animal evolution: hybrid speciation in the yellow-rumped warbler complex


Kevin E. Omland, Fax: 410-455-2243; Email:


In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Brelsford et al. (2011) present strong evidence for a case of hybrid speciation within the yellow-rumped warbler complex. Although homoploid hybrid speciation has now been documented in many animals (Mallet 2007), it seems rare in tetrapods (Mavárez & Linares 2008) and it has barely even been mentioned in birds (Price 2008). Brelsford and colleagues thus present the first detailed molecular evidence suggesting that hybrid speciation can occur in birds. Brelsford et al. (2011) posit that Audubon’s warbler (Dendroica auduboni) constitutes a hybrid species originating from the admixture of two distinct parental lineages, represented today by myrtle warbler (D. coronata) and black-fronted warbler (D. nigrifrons). The authors present three major lines of molecular evidence suggesting that this is not simply a case of a hybrid swarm or limited introgression.