Alternative hypotheses of hybrid zones make specific predictions about reproductive components of fitness in the hybrids. The dynamic-equilibrium and reinforcement hypotheses are premised on reduced hybrid fitness, which should be apparent as reduced clutch or brood size or as increased embryonic mortality. The hybrid-superiority and introgression hypotheses predict normal clutch and brood size and embryonic mortality.
Reproductive success was measured at four study sites on a transect across the hybrid zone between the Yellow- (Colaptes auratus auratus) and Red-shafted (C. a. cafer) subspecies of the Northern Flicker. Two additional clutch size samples representing pure Yellow- and Redshafted flickers were obtained from museum egg collections. Mean clutch size did not differ significantly among the six samples. Factorial ANOVAs showed that early clutches and broods are larger than late clutches and broods, but no significant difference was detected between hybrid and parental study sites. Analyses of the effect of phenotype (yellow-shafted, red-shafted, hybrid) also suggest that neither clutch size nor brood size is affected, with the exception that hybrid males sired significantly smaller broods. Finally, there were no significant effects of type of cross (red-shafted male x hybrid female, etc.) on the ratio broodsize / clutch-size.
The only evidence for reduced hybrid fitness was in the test where males with hybrid phenotypes appear to have sired small broods. This may indicate that abnormal behavior of hybrid males affects female fecundity, but it is also plausible that this marginally significant result is a type I statistical error. The overall lack of evidence for reduced hybrid fitness is inconsistent with either the dynamic-equilibrium or reinforcement models. Of the two remaining alternatives, the bounded hybrid-superiority model appears the more likely explanation of the Northern Flicker hybrid zone because earlier work (Moore and Buchanan 1985) showed that the hybrid zone is not becoming broader, as predicted by the introgression model.
Biology | Ornithology
Moore, W. S. and Koenig, W. D. 1986. Comparative reproductive success of Yellow-shafted, Red-shafted, and Hybrid Flickers across a hybrid zone. The Auk 103(1):42-51.