Differential Selection to Avoid Hybridization in Two Toad Species

Evolution. 2002 Sep;56(9):1840-8. doi: 10.1111/j.0014-3820.2002.tb00198.x.


The fitness consequences of hybridization critically affect the speciation process. When hybridization is costly, selection favors the evolution of prezygotic isolating mechanisms (e.g., mating behaviors) that reduce heterospecific matings and, consequently, enhance reproductive isolation between species (a process termed reinforcement). If, however, selection to avoid hybridization differs between species, reinforcement may be impeded. Here, we examined both the frequency and fitness effects of hybridization between plains spadefoot toads (Spea bombifrons) and New Mexico spadefoot toads (S. multiplicata). Hybridization was most frequent in smaller breeding ponds that tend to be ephemeral, and heterospecific pairs consisted almost entirely of S. bombifrons females and S. multiplicata males. Moreover, in controlled experimental crosses, hybrid offspring from crosses in which S. multiplicata was maternal had significantly lower survival and longer development time than pure S. multiplicata offspring. By contrast, hybrid offspring from crosses in which S. bombifrons was maternal outperformed pure S. bombifrons offspring by reaching metamorphosis faster. These data suggest that, although S. multiplicata females are under selection to avoid hybridization, selection might favor those S. bombifrons females that hybridize with S. multiplicata if their breeding pond is highly ephemeral. Generally, the strength of selection to avoid hybridization may differ for hybridizing species, possibly impeding reinforcement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anura / classification
  • Anura / genetics*
  • Anura / physiology
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Female
  • Hybridization, Genetic
  • Male
  • Reproduction
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*