Ancient hybridization and mitochondrial capture between two species of chipmunks

Jeffrey M. Good, Sarah Hird, Noah Reid, John R. Demboski, Scott J. Steppan, Tina R. Martin-Nims, Jack Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

157 Scopus citations


Models that posit speciation in the face of gene flow are replacing classical views that hybridization is rare between animal species. We use a multilocus approach to examine the history of hybridization and gene flow between two species of chipmunks (Tamias ruficaudus and T. amoenus). Previous studies have shown that these species occupy different ecological niches and have distinct genital bone morphologies, yet appear to be incompletely isolated reproductively in multiple areas of sympatry. We compared data from four sequenced nuclear loci and from seven microsatellite loci to published cytochrome b sequences. Interspecific gene flow was primarily restricted to introgression of the T. ruficaudus mitochondrial genome into a sympatric subspecies of T. amoenus, T. a. canicaudus, with the four sequenced nuclear loci showing little to no interspecific allele sharing. Microsatellite data were consistent with high levels of differentiation between the species and also showed no current gene flow between broadly sympatric populations of T. a. canicaudus and T. ruficaudus. Coalescent analyses date the mtDNA introgression event from the mid-Pleistocene to late Pliocene. Overall, these data indicate that introgression has had a minimal impact on the nuclear genomes of T. amoenus and T. ruficaudus despite multiple independent hybridization events. Our findings challenge long-standing assumptions on patterns of reproductive isolation in chipmunks and suggest that there may be other examples of hybridization among the 23 species of Tamias that occur in western North America.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1313-1327
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Gene flow
  • Hybridization
  • Multilocus
  • Reproductive isolation
  • Speciation
  • Tamias


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