Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 156, Issue 3, pp 829–836 | Cite as

Intergeneric hybridization between Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus and Whinchat Saxicola rubetra revealed by molecular analyses

  • Silje HognerEmail author
  • Albert Burgas Riera
  • Margrethe Wold
  • Jan T. Lifjeld
  • Arild Johnsen
Original Article


Hybridization between members of different genera is relatively rare in nature. Here, we present the first molecular evidence of an intergeneric hybrid within the avian Muscicapidae family. The suspected hybrid was captured at Lista Bird Observatory, Norway, in September 2013. Molecular analysis of the mitochondrial COI gene showed that the mother of the hybrid was a Whinchat, while two intronic sequences revealed that the father was a Common Redstart. Molecular sexing showed that the hybrid was a male. A detailed phenotypic description of the hybrid is presented together with the parental species. Documenting hybridization is increasingly feasible using molecular methods and provides important information to studies of species borders, reproductive barriers and the process of speciation. We emphasize the importance of securing solid documentation (photos and morphometrics) and DNA samples (from feathers or blood) whenever suspected hybrids are captured in the wild.


Hybridization Intergeneric Muscicapidae COI Z-linked introns 


Molekulare Analysen decken Gattungshybridisierung zwischen Gartenrotschwanz Phoenicurus phoenicurus und Braunkehlchen Saxicola rubetra auf

Hybridisierung zwischen Mitgliedern unterschiedlicher Gattungen kommt in der Natur relativ selten vor. Mit dieser Studie wird der erste molekulare Beweis für einen Gattungshybriden innerhalb der Muscicapidae-Familie erbracht. Der vermutliche Hybride wurde auf der Lista Vogelfangstation in Norwegen im September 2013 gefangen. Molekulare Analysen der mitochondrialen COI-Region ergaben, dass die Mutter des Hybriden ein Braunkehlchen war, während zwei intronische Sequenzen zeigten, dass der Vater ein Gartenrotschwanz war. Die molekulare Geschlechtsbestimmung ergab, dass der Hybride ein Männchen war. Eine detaillierte phänotypische Beschreibung des Hybriden zusammen mit den Elternarten wird vorgelegt. Die Dokumentation von Hybridisierung ist zunehmend leichter durch die Nutzung molekulare Methoden und liefert wichtige Informationen zu Artgrenzen, reproduktive Barrieren und dem Prozess der Artbildung. Wir betonen die Bedeutung der Sicherung einer soliden Dokumentation (Fotos und morphometrische Daten) und DNA-Proben (aus Federn oder Blut), wann immer vermutliche Hybriden wildlebend gefangen werden.



We thank Jonas Langbråten for providing one of the photos, and two anonymous reviewers for comments on a previous version of this paper. The study was funded by the Norwegian Research Council (Grant No 213592 to AJ) and Lista Bird Observatory via a grant from the Norwegian Environment Agency.

Supplementary material

10336_2015_1165_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15.9 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16231 kb)


  1. Baack EJ, Rieseberg LH (2007) A genomic view of introgression and hybrid speciation. Curr Opin Genet Dev 17:513–518PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baird RW, Willis PM, Guenther TJ, Wilson PJ, White BN (1998) An intergeneric hybrid in the family Phocoenidae. Can J Zool 76:198–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bensch S, Lindström Å (1992) The age of young willow warblers. Phylloscopus trochilus estimated from different stages of postjuvenile moult. Ornis Svecica 2:23–28Google Scholar
  4. Borge T, Webster MT, Andersson G, Saetre GP (2005) Contrasting patterns of polymorphism and divergence on the Z chromosome and autosomes in two Ficedula flycatcher species. Genetics 171:1861–1873PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Britschgi A, Spaar R, Arlettaz R (2006) Impact of grassland farming intensification on the breeding ecology of an indicator insectivorous passerine, the Whinchat Saxicola rubetra: lessons for overall Alpine meadowland management. Biol Conserv 130:193–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Coyne JA, Orr HA (1989) Patterns of speciation in Drosophila. Evolution 43:362–381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Coyne JA, Orr HA (1997) Patterns of speciation in Drosophila revisited. Evolution 51:295–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cramp S (1988) The birds of the Western Palearctic. In: Handbook of birds in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, vol 5. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  9. Dobzhansky T (1940) Speciation as a stage in evolutionary divergence. Am Nat 74:312–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fischer K, Busch R, Fahl G, Kunz M, Knopf M (2013) Habitat preferences and breeding success of Whinchats (Saxicola rubetra) in the Westerwald mountain range. J Ornithol 154:339–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Funk DJ, Nosil P, Etges WJ (2006) Ecological divergence exhibits consistently positive associations with reproductive isolation across disparate taxa. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103:3209–3213PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gholamhosseini A, Vardakis M, Aliabadian M, Nijman V, Vonk R (2013) Hybridization between sister taxa versus non-sister taxa: a case study in birds. Bird Study 60:195–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Grant PR, Grant BR (1992) Hybridization of bird species. Science 256:193–197PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. GrantPR Grant BR, Markert JA, Keller LF, Petren K (2004) Convergent evolution of Darwin’s finches caused by introgressive hybridization and selection. Evolution 58:1588–1599CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Griffiths R, Double MC, Orr K, Dawson RJG (1998) A DNA test to sex most birds. Mol Ecol 7:1071–1075PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Grosch K (2003) Hybridization between two insectivorous bird species and the effect on prey-handling efficiency. Evol Ecol 17:1–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Haldane JBS (1922) Sex ratio and unisexual sterility in hybrid animals. J Genetics 12:101–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hebert PDN, Stoeckle MY, Zemlak TS, Francis CM (2004) Identification of birds through DNA Barcodes. PLoS Biol 2:e312PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hogner S, Laskemoen T, Lifjeld JT, Porkert J, Kleven O, Albayrak T, Kabasakal B, Johnsen A (2012) Deep sympatric mitochondrial divergence without reproductive isolation in the Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus. Ecol Evol 2:2974–2988PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. JenniL Winkler R (1994) Moult and ageing of European passerines. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. Jetz W, Thomas GH, Joy JB, Hartmann K, Mooers AO (2012) The global diversity of birds in space and time. Nature 491:444–448PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Johnsen A, Rindal E, Ericson PGP, Zuccon D, Kerr CKR, Stoeckle MY, Lifjeld JT (2010) DNA barcoding of Scandinavian birds reveals divergent lineages in trans-Atlantic species. J Ornithol 151:565–578CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kaiser A (1993) A new multi-category classification of subcutaneous fat deposits of songbirds. J Field Ornithol 64:246–255Google Scholar
  24. Kronforst MR (2008) Gene flow persists millions of years after speciation in Heliconius butterflies. BMC Evol Biol 8:98PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. LeClere JB, Hoaglund EP, Scharosch J, Smith CE, Gamble T (2012) Two naturally occurring intergeneric hybrid snakes (Pituophis catenifer sayi × Pantherophis vulpinus; Lampropeltini, Squamata) from the Midwestern United States. J Herpetol 46:257–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lifjeld JT, Marthinsen G, Myklebust M, Dawson DA, Johnsen A (2010) A wild Marsh Warbler x Sedge Warbler hybrid (Acrocephalus palustris× A. schoenobaenus) in Norway documented with molecular markers. J Ornithol 151:513–517CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mashiko M, Fujioka M, Moriya M, Hagimoto T, Yamaguchi M, Toquenaga Y (2012) Natural hybridization between a Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) and a Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus) in Japan. Waterbirds 35:160–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mayr E (1942) Systematics and the origin of species from the viewpoint of a zoologist. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. McCarthy EM (2006) Handbook of avian hybrids of the world. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  30. Menzel H (1996) Die Mehlschwalbe. Westarp Wissenschaften, MagdeburgGoogle Scholar
  31. Orr HA (1997) Haldane’s rule. Ann Rev Ecol Syst 28:195–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Price T (2008) Speciation in birds. Roberts and company, Greenwood VillageGoogle Scholar
  33. Price TD, Bouvier MM (2002) The evolution of F1 postzygotic incompatibilities in birds. Evolution 56:2083–2089PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Randler C (2002) Avian hybridization, mixed pairing and female choice. Anim Behav 63:103–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ratnasingham S, Hebert PDN (2007) BOLD: the Barcode of life data system Mol Ecol Notes 7:355–364PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Reifová R, Kverek P, Reif J (2011) The first record of a female hybrid between the Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) and the Thrush Nightingale (Luscinia luscinia) in nature. J Ornithol 152:1063–1068CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sangster G, Alstrom P, Forsmark E, Olsson U (2010) Multi-locus phylogenetic analysis of Old World chats and flycatchers reveals extensive paraphyly at family, subfamily and genus level (Aves: Muscicapidae). Mol Phyl Evol 57:380–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Seehausen O (2004) Hybridization and adaptive radiation. Trends Ecol Evol 19:198–207PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Servedio MR, Noor MAF (2003) The role of reinforcement in speciation: theory and data. Ann Rev Ecol Syst 34:339–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Svensson L (1992) Identification guide to European passerines. Lars Svensson, StockholmGoogle Scholar
  41. Tamura K, Dudley J, Nei M, Kumar S (2007) MEGA4: molecular evolutionary genetics analysis (MEGA) software version 4.0. Mol Biol Evol 24:1596–1599PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tubaro PL, Lijtmaer DA (2002) Hybridization patterns and the evolution of reproductive isolation in ducks. Biol J Linn Soc 77:193–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Turelli M, Orr HA (1995) The dominance theory of Haldane’s rule. Genetics 140:389–402PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Turner A (2006) The barn swallow. Poyser, LondonGoogle Scholar
  45. Wirtz P (1999) Mother species–father species: unidirectional hybridization in animals with female choice. Anim Behav 58:1–12PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Zuccon D, Ericson PGP (2010) A multi-gene phylogeny disentangles the chat-flycatcher complex (Aves: muscicapidae). Zool Scripta 39:213–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Silje Hogner
    • 1
    Email author
  • Albert Burgas Riera
    • 2
  • Margrethe Wold
    • 2
  • Jan T. Lifjeld
    • 1
  • Arild Johnsen
    • 1
  1. 1.Natural History MuseumUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Lista Bird ObservatoryBorhaugNorway

Personalised recommendations