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Keywords:

  • AFLP;
  • cline;
  • hybridization;
  • ecological selection;
  • environmental gradient;
  • gene flow;
  • migratory divide;
  • tension zone

This study characterizes a hybrid zone that spans a migratory divide between subspecies of the Swainson's thrush (Catharus ustulatus), a long distance migratory songbird, in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia. To assess the potential for a barrier to gene flow between the subspecies, I: (1) analyzed the shape and width of genetic and morphological clines relative to estimates of dispersal distance, (2) assessed the ratio of parental to hybrid genotypes across the hybrid zone, (3) estimated population density across the hybrid zone, and (4) compared the spatial relationship between the hybrid zone and an existing environmental gradient. The results indicate that the hybrid zone is characterized by mostly concordant character clines that are narrow relative to dispersal, the absence of a hybrid swarm, and low population density at the center of the zone. This hybrid zone and additional regions of contact between these subspecies are found on the border between coastal and interior climatic regions throughout the Pacific Northwest. An identified shift in the location, but not the width, of the mtDNA cline relative to the nuclear clines is consistent with asymmetrical hybridization. Neutral diffusion of populations following secondary contact and hybrid superiority within an ecotone are insufficient explanations for the observed patterns. The hypothesis that best fits the data is that the Swainson's thrush hybrid zone is a tension zone maintained by dispersal and ecologically mediated barriers to gene flow.