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Keywords:

  • Colias eriphyle;
  • Colias eurytheme;
  • endogenous;
  • exogenous;
  • syngameon

Hybridization significantly affects the ecology and evolution of numerous plant and animal lineages. Most studies have focused on endogenous drivers of hybridization and neglected variation in exogenous factors, such as seasonal weather patterns. In this study, we take advantage of a unique dataset consisting of records of hybridization between the butterflies Colias eurytheme and C. eriphyle (Pieridae) for 66 generations (22 years) to investigate the importance of seasonal weather on the production and survival of hybrid offspring. Important seasonal weather variables for each parental species and hybrid offspring were determined using model averaging, and these weather variables, along with butterfly abundances, were analyzed using path analysis. The most important drivers of hybridization were the abundance of C. eriphyle, summer minimum temperature, and spring maximum temperature. In contrast, the abundance of C. eurytheme and weather variables prior to the current flight season were relatively unimportant for variation in hybrid abundance. Parental abundances were mostly driven by weather variables prior to the flight season possibly because these variables affect host plant quality. Our results suggest that exogenous, climatic factors can influence hybridization in natural systems, and that these factors can act both directly on hybrid abundance and indirectly through the population dynamics of parental species.