Extensive rangewide mitochondrial introgression indicates substantial cryptic hybridization in the Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera)

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Widespread population declines of the Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) are thought to be due in part to hybridization with the expanding Blue-winged Warbler (V. pinus), which predictably replaces Golden-winged Warblers at breeding sites in which the two species come into contact. However, the mechanism by which this replacement occurs remains unresolved. Recent genetic work has indicated that, even in areas where the two species have been in contact for a short period, introgression of Blue-winged mitochondrial (mtDNA) and nuclear genes into Golden-winged individuals is common. To explore this process on a broader scale, we screened more than 750 individuals from nine U.S. states and three provinces to examine geographic patterns of mtDNA introgression. The only population in which all phenotypic Golden-winged Warblers had Golden-winged mtDNA haplotypes, and in which there are no breeding Blue-winged or hybrid individuals, was in the province of Manitoba, near the northwestern edge of the species' breeding distribution. The near ubiquity of mitochondrial introgression suggests that there are far fewer genetically pure populations of Golden-winged Warblers than previously believed, a finding with important implications for this threatened species.

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© 2009 by the author(s). Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.5751/ACE-00326-040204

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Avian Conservation and Ecology