, Volume 35, Issue 6, pp 931-940
Date: 13 Dec 2011

Cryptic introgression between murre sister species (Uria spp.) in the Pacific low Arctic: frequency, cause, and implications

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As southern species undergo northward range expansions, reports of hybridization between temperate and arctic taxa are increasing, which may have important implications for the evolution, conservation, and management of arctic species. The extent of hybridization between temperate common murres (Uria aalge) and arctic thick-billed murres (U. lomvia), seabirds in the family Alcidae, has been the subject of debate. In a previous survey of variation in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in common and thick-billed murres sampled from throughout the North Pacific and low Arctic, 12 of 327 common murres (~4%) were found to possess DNA sequences characteristic of thick-billed murres. In the present study, we surveyed variation in three nuclear introns in 230 common murres and 56 thick-billed murres and report that these putative hybrids carry various combinations of intron alleles from common and thick-billed murres. Analysis using the program STRUCTURE indicated that nine of these individuals possessed high proportions of thick-billed murre intron alleles, two possessed alleles in F1 and F2 proportions, and one individual possessed predominantly common murre intron alleles. We propose that the asymmetric mtDNA introgression we observed is most likely the result of mate choice at mixed colonies based on differences in male mating behaviours. Our results highlight that hybridization between thick-billed and common murres is more prevalent than previously thought, which may have important implications for the conservation and management of arctic-dwelling thick-billed murres as common murres expand northward.