Hybrid zones are useful systems in which to investigate processes important in creating and maintaining biological diversity. As they are often located in ecotones, patterns of environmental heterogeneity may influence hybridization, and may also influence the maintenance of reproductive isolation between hybridizing species. Focusing on the hybrid zone betweenPasserina amoena (Lazuli Bunting) andPasserina cyanea(Indigo Bunting), located in the eastern Rocky Mountain/western Great Plains ecotone, we examined the relationship between population-pairwise differences in the proportion of hybrids and environmental variation. Models including environmental variables explained more of the variation in hybridization rates across the ecotone than did models that only included the geographic distance between sampling localities as predictor variables (63.9% and 58.9% versus 38.8% and 39.9%, depending on how hybridization was quantified). In the models including environmental variables, the amount of rainfall during the warmest quarter had the greatest explanatory power, consistent with a hypothesis thatP. c yan e ais better adapted to the mesic environments of eastern North America andP. amoe n ais better adapted to the xeric habitats of western North America. These results suggest that continued reproductive isolation between these species is mediated, at least partially, by differential adaptations to local environmental conditions.
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