Genetic structure in a dynamic baboon hybrid zone corroborates behavioural observations in a hybrid population


Jenny Tung, Fax: 001 773 834 8470; E-mail:


Behaviour and genetic structure are intimately related: mating patterns and patterns of movement between groups or populations influence the movement of genetic variation across the landscape and from one generation to the next. In hybrid zones, the behaviour of the hybridizing taxa can also impact the incidence and outcome of hybridization events. Hybridization between yellow baboons and anubis baboons has been well documented in the Amboseli basin of Kenya, where more anubis-like individuals tend to experience maturational and reproductive advantages. However, it is unknown whether these advantages are reflected in the genetic structure of populations surrounding this area. Here, we used microsatellite genotype data to evaluate the structure and composition of baboon populations in southern Kenya. Our results indicate that, unlike for mitochondrial DNA, microsatellite-based measures of genetic structure concord with phenotypically based taxonomic distinctions and that the currently active hybrid zone is relatively narrow. Isolation with migration analysis revealed asymmetric gene flow in this region from anubis populations into yellow populations, in support of the anubis-biased phenotypic advantages observed in Amboseli. Populations that are primarily yellow but that receive anubis gene flow exhibit higher levels of genetic diversity than yellow populations far from the introgression front. Our results support previous work that indicates a long history of hybridization and introgression among East African baboons. Specifically, it suggests that anubis baboons are in the process of gradual range expansion into the range of yellow baboons, a pattern potentially explained by behavioural and life history advantages that correlate with anubis ancestry.