Morphologically cryptic amazonian bird species pairs exhibit strong postzygotic reproductive isolation

Paola Pulido-Santacruz, Alexandre Aleixo, Jason T. Weir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


We possess limited understanding of how speciation unfolds in the most species-rich region of the planet—the Amazon basin. Hybrid zones provide valuable information on the evolution of reproductive isolation, but few studies of Amazonian vertebrate hybrid zones have rigorously examined the genome-wide underpinnings of reproductive isolation. We used genome-wide genetic datasets to show that two deeply diverged, but morphologically cryptic sister species of forest understorey birds show little evidence for prezygotic reproductive isolation, but substantial postzygotic isolation. Patterns of heterozygosity and hybrid index revealed that hybrid classes with heavily recombined genomes are rare and closely match simulations with high levels of selection against hybrids. Genomic and geographical clines exhibit a remarkable similarity across loci in cline centres, and have exceptionally narrow cline widths, suggesting that postzygotic isolation is driven by genetic incompatibilities at many loci, rather than a few loci of strong effect. We propose Amazonian understorey forest birds speciate slowly via gradual accumulation of postzygotic genetic incompatibilities, with prezygotic barriers playing a less important role. Our results suggest old, cryptic Amazonian taxa classified as subspecies could have substantial postzygotic isolation deserving species recognition and that species richness is likely to be substantially underestimated in Amazonia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20172081
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1874
StatePublished - Mar 14 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Morphologically cryptic amazonian bird species pairs exhibit strong postzygotic reproductive isolation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this