PloS one

Repeated Reticulate Evolution in North American Papilio machaon Group Swallowtail Butterflies.

PMID 26517268


Hybridization between distinct populations or species is increasingly recognized as an important process for generating biodiversity. However, the interaction between hybridization and speciation is complex, and the diverse evolutionary outcomes of hybridization are difficult to differentiate. Here we characterize potential hybridization in a species group of swallowtail butterflies using microsatellites, DNA sequences, and morphology, and assess whether adaptive introgression or homoploid hybrid speciation was the primary process leading to each putative hybrid lineage. Four geographically separated hybrid populations were identified in the Papilio machaon species group. One distinct mitochondrial DNA clade from P. machaon was fixed in three hybrid taxa (P. brevicauda, P. joanae, and P. m. kahli), while one hybrid swarm (P. zelicaon x machaon) exhibited this hybrid mtDNA clade as well as widespread parental mtDNA haplotypes from both parental species. Microsatellite markers and morphology showed variable admixture and intermediacy, ranging from signatures of prolonged differential introgression from the paternal species (P. polyxenes/P. zelicaon) to current gene flow with both parental species. Divergences of the hybrid lineages dated to early- to mid-Pleistocene, suggesting that repeated glaciations and subsequent range shifts of parental species, particularly P. machaon hudsonianus, facilitated initial hybridization. Although each lineage is distinct, P. joanae is the only taxon with sufficient evidence (ecological separation from parental species) to define it as a homoploid hybrid species. The repetition of hybridization in this group provides a valuable foundation for future research on hybridization, and these results emphasize the potential for hybridization to drive speciation in diverse ways.