Local adaptation within a hybrid species

F Eroukhmanoff, J S Hermansen, R I Bailey, S A Sæther, G-P Sætre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ecological divergence among populations may be strongly influenced by their genetic background. For instance, genetic
admixture through introgressive hybridization or hybrid speciation is likely to affect the genetic variation and evolvability of
phenotypic traits. We studied geographic variation in two beak dimensions and three other phenotypic traits of the Italian
sparrow (Passer italiae), a young hybrid species formed through interbreeding between house sparrows (P. domesticus) and
Spanish sparrows (P. hispaniolensis). We found that beak morphology was strongly influenced by precipitation regimes and that
it appeared to be the target of divergent selection within Italian sparrows. Interestingly, however, the degree of parental genetic
contribution in the hybrid species had no effect on phenotypic beak variation. Moreover, beak height divergence may mediate
genetic differentiation between populations, consistent with isolation-by-adaptation within this hybrid species. The study
illustrates how hybrid species may be relatively unconstrained by their admixed genetic background, allowing them to adapt
rapidly to environmental variation
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2013


  • adaptive divergence
  • environmental variation
  • genetic constraints
  • gene flow
  • hybridization
  • Passer sparrows


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