At JMIH 2016, I chatted with Johanna Wegener, a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island in Jason Kolbe’s lab, about her poster detailing her work identifying hybridization between Anolis carolinensis and A. porcatus in southern Florida.
Interspecific hybridization in anoles is thought to be fairly rare, with the best-known example being hybridization between Anolis carolinensis (native to the southeastern U.S.) and A. porcatus (native to Cuba) in southern Florida. I was surprised to learn how little we know about this rumored hybrid zone.
A. porcatus was likely introduced into Florida within the last few decades, but the striking morphological similarities between A. carolinesis and A. porcatus make anecdotal reports of hybridization hard to confirm. Wegener conducted the first genetic analyses of hybridization between A. carolinesis and A. porcatus. She genotyped 18 nuclear microsatellites from green anoles in Florida (Palm Beach and South Miami) and western Cuba and conducted a STRUCTURE analysis and found support for three genetic clusters consisting of Cuban A. porcatus, and two Floridian groups (one from Palm Beach and one from South Miami). With the addition of the mitochondrial ND2 marker, she found that the South Miami population had both A. carolinensis and A. porcatus haplotypes. Interestingly, there appeared to be very few recent hybrids; instead, the hybrid group appeared distinct from either parent group, suggesting that hybridization has been occurring for several generations.
In addition, Wegener looked at the variation in A. porcatus and A. carolinensis markers in each hybrid individual and found examples of some parent markers being retained at high proportions in the hybrids, possibly suggesting the retention of beneficial parent alleles in the hybrids.
Given that this study was only conducted at two sites in Florida, the exciting next step of this study is to better quantify the genetic makeup of hybrids across southern Florida and map out the hybrid zone.