Hybrid zones provide a rare opportunity to explore the processes involved in reproductive isolation and speciation. The southern hybrid zone between the southeastern Australian tree frogs Litoria ewingii and L. paraewingi has been comprehensively studied over the last 40 years, primarily using reproductive compatibility experiments and male advertisement calls. We used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and eight nuclear microsatellite markers to characterize this hybrid zone along a historically studied transect and to test various dispersal-dependent and dispersal-independent hybrid zone models. The species are genetically distinct and the level of hybridization within the contact zone is low, with the majority of admixed individuals representing later-generation hybrids. Based on previous experimental genetic compatibility studies, we predicted that hybrids with L. paraewingi mtDNA would be more frequent than hybrids with L. ewingii mtDNA. Surprisingly, a greater proportion of the identified hybrids had L. ewingii mtDNA. Geographical cline analyses showed a sharp transition in allele frequencies across the transect, and both the mtDNA and microsatellite data showed concordant cline centres, but were best supported by a model that allowed width to vary. Overall, the L. ewingii–L. paraewingi hybrid zone is best characterized as a tension zone, due to the narrow cline width, concordant genetic clines and low levels of hybridization.
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