Do suture zones exist?

Evolution. 2004 Nov;58(11):2391-7. doi: 10.1111/j.0014-3820.2004.tb00869.x.


Remington (1968) argued that 13 suture zones exist in North America. Remington defined a suture zone as, "a band of geographic overlap between major biotic assemblages, including some pairs of species or semispecies which hybridize in the zone" (p. 322). Although initially controversial, the idea that suture zones exist has picked up momentum over the past decade, due largely to the phylogeographic work of Hewitt, Avise, and their colleagues. Nevertheless, the reality of suture zones has not yet been subjected to rigorous analysis using statistical and geographic information system (GIS) approaches. To test for the existence of Remington's suture zones, we first identified 117 terrestrial hybrid zones in Canada and the United States through a literature search for the key words "cline," "contact zone," "hybrid zone," and "hybridization" in articles published between 1970 and 2002. The 117 hybrid zones were mapped using a GIS approach and compared with a digitized version of Remington's original suture zone map. Overall, there does appear to be an association between hybrid zones and suture zones, but this association is largely attributable to clustering of hybrid zones in only two of the 13 suture zones recognized by Remington. The results suggest that evolutionary biologists should retain some skepticism toward Remington's suture zones.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Demography*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Geography
  • Hybridization, Genetic*
  • North America
  • Species Specificity