The Effect of Phylogeographic History on Species Boundaries: A Comparative Framework in Hyla Tree Frogs

Sci Rep. 2020 Mar 26;10(1):5502. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-62382-4.


Because it is indicative of reproductive isolation, the amount of genetic introgression across secondary contact zones is increasingly considered in species delimitation. However, patterns of admixture at range margins can be skewed by the regional dynamics of hybrid zones. In this context, we posit an important role for phylogeographic history: hybrid zones located within glacial refugia (putatively formed during the Late-Pleistocene) should be better defined than those located in post-glacial or introduced ranges (putatively formed during the Holocene and the Anthropocene). We test this hypothesis in a speciation continuum of tree frogs from the Western Palearctic (Hyla), featuring ten identified contacts between species spanning Plio-Pleistocene to Miocene divergences. We review the rich phylogeographic literature of this group and examine the overlooked transition between H. arborea and H. molleri in Western France using a multilocus dataset. Our comparative analysis supports a trend that contacts zones resulting from post-glacial expansions and human translocations feature more extensive introgression than those established within refugial areas. Integrating the biogeographic history of incipient species, i.e. their age since first contact together with their genetic divergence, thus appears timely to draw sound evolutionary and taxonomic inferences from patterns of introgression across hybrid zones.