Conservation Genetics

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 175-182

First online:

The utility of nuclear introns for investigating hybridization and genetic introgression: a case study involving Brachyramphus murrelets

  • N.M. PachecoAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Queen's University
  • , B.C. CongdonAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Queen's University
  • , V.L. FriesenAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Queen's University Email author 

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Interspecific hybridization can have importantconsequences for conservation, but can bedifficult to detect using morphologicalmarkers. To test the utility of nuclear intronsfor investigating hybridization and geneticintrogression, we analyzed variation in fivenuclear introns and the mitochondrialcytochrome b gene in two species ofseabirds that are declining and may behybridizing: marbled murrelets(Brachyramphus marmoratus) and Kittlitz'smurrelets (B. brevirostris). No alleleswere shared between samples of the two species,and intron alleles formed reciprocallymonophyletic groups in gene trees. Our resultssuggest that few murrelets in Alaska areF 1, F 2or back-cross hybrids,and that gene pools of these species have beenindependent for 1.8 to 5.7 million years. Weconclude that introns are a potentially richsource of markers for analyzing hybridizationand introgression in endangered or decliningspecies.

Brachyramphus cytochrome b hybridization introgression intron single nucleotide polymorphisms