Isotopic variation across the Audubon's-myrtle warbler hybrid zone

D. P.L. Toews, A. Brelsford, D. E. Irwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Differences in seasonal migratory behaviours are thought to be an important component of reproductive isolation in many organisms. Stable isotopes have been used with success in estimating the location and qualities of disjunct breeding and wintering areas. However, few studies have used isotopic data to estimate the movements of hybrid offspring in species that form hybrid zones. Here, we use stable hydrogen to estimate the wintering locations and migratory patterns of two common and widespread migratory birds, Audubon's (Setophaga auduboni) and myrtle (S. coronata) warblers, as well as their hybrids. These two species form a narrow hybrid zone with extensive interbreeding in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, which has been studied for over four decades. Isotopes in feathers grown on the wintering grounds or early on migration reveal three important patterns: (1) Audubon's and myrtle warblers from allopatric breeding populations winter in isotopically different environments, consistent with band recovery data and suggesting that there is a narrow migratory transition between the two species, (2) most hybrids appear to overwinter in the south-eastern USA, similar to where myrtle warblers are known to winter, and (3) some hybrid individuals, particularly those along the western edge of the hybrid zone, show Audubon's-like isotopic patterns. These data suggest there is a migratory divide between these two species, but that it is not directly coincident with the centre of the hybrid zone in the breeding range. We interpret these findings and discuss them within the context of previous research on hybrid zones, speciation and migratory divides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1179-1191
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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