Hybrid songbirds employ intermediate routes in a migratory divide

Ecol Lett. 2014 Oct;17(10):1211-8. doi: 10.1111/ele.12326. Epub 2014 Jul 16.


Migratory divides are contact zones between populations that use different routes to navigate around unsuitable areas on seasonal migration. Hybrids in divides have been predicted to employ intermediate and potentially inferior routes. We provide the first direct test of this hypothesis, using light-level geolocators to track birds breeding in a hybrid zone between Swainson's thrushes in western Canada. Compared to parental forms, hybrids exhibited increased variability in their migratory routes, with some using intermediate routes that crossed arid and mountainous regions, and some using the same routes as one parental group on fall migration and the other on spring migration. Hybrids also tended to use geographically intermediate wintering sites. Analysis of genetic variation across the hybrid zone suggests moderately strong selection against hybrids. These results indicate that seasonal migratory behaviour might be a source of selection against hybrids, supporting a possible role for migration in speciation.

Keywords: Ecological speciation; geolocators; migratory divide; seasonal migration; songbird.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Migration*
  • Animals
  • Canada
  • Chimera
  • Genotype
  • Hybridization, Genetic
  • Seasons
  • Songbirds / genetics*
  • Songbirds / physiology