Patterns of differential introgression in a salamander hybrid zone: Inferences from genetic data and ecological niche modelling

M. W.H. Chatfield, K. H. Kozak, B. M. Fitzpatrick, P. K. Tucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Hybrid zones have yielded considerable insight into many evolutionary processes, including speciation and the maintenance of species boundaries. Presented here are analyses from a hybrid zone that occurs among three salamanders -Plethodon jordani, Plethodon metcalfi and Plethodon teyahalee- from the southern Appalachian Mountains. Using a novel statistical approach for analysis of non-clinal, multispecies hybrid zones, we examined spatial patterns of variation at four markers: single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) located in the mtDNA ND2 gene and the nuclear DNA ILF3 gene, and the morphological markers of red cheek pigmentation and white flecks. Concordance of the ILF3 marker and both morphological markers across four transects is observed. In three of the four transects, however, the pattern of mtDNA is discordant from all other markers, with a higher representation of P. metcalfi mtDNA in the northern and lower elevation localities than is expected given the ILF3 marker and morphology. To explore whether climate plays a role in the position of the hybrid zone, we created ecological niche models for P. jordani and P. metcalfi. Modelling results suggest that hybrid zone position is not determined by steep gradients in climatic suitability for either species. Instead, the hybrid zone lies in a climatically homogenous region that is broadly suitable for both P. jordani and P. metcalfi. We discuss various selective (natural selection associated with climate) and behavioural processes (sex-biased dispersal, asymmetric reproductive isolation) that might explain the discordance in the extent to which mtDNA and nuclear DNA and colour-pattern traits have moved across this hybrid zone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4265-4282
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 2010

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2014 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Plethodon
  • climate change
  • differential introgression
  • ecological niche modelling
  • hybrid zone
  • salamander

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