Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Dynamic biogeography – Hybrid zone movement

Does a moving hybrid zone leave a genomic footprint?

Ben Wielstra
Newton International Fellowship Newton International Fellowship
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship
  • Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, the Netherlands 
  • University of California, Los Angeles, USA 
  • University of Sheffield, UK 
  • Adnan Menderes University, Aydın, Turkey

In a project supported by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie and a Newton International Fellowship, Ben Wielstra studies hybrid zone dynamics. Speciation typically involves a stage in which species can still exchange genetic material across the hybrid zones they establish upon secondary contact. If one member of a hybridizing species pair displaces the other, their hybrid zone would move. Such movement may amount to considerable distances over ‘evolutionary time’. Yet, the prevalence of long-term hybrid zone movement is poorly understood, and considered inconsequential in the classical hybrid zone literature. A key prediction is that that the receding species leaves behind a trail of introgressed selectively neutral alleles within the expanding one. Wielstra exposes such a genomic footprint of hybrid zone movement in several Triturus hybrid zones, providing firm support that hybrid zones can shift position over considerable time and space.


  • Wielstra, B. (2019). Historical hybrid zone movement: more pervasive than appreciated? Journal of Biogeography 46(7): 1300-1305.
  • Wielstra, B., Burke, T., Butlin, R.K., Arntzen, J.W. (2017). A signature of dynamic biogeography: enclaves indicate past species replacement. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 284 (1868): 20172014
  • Wielstra, B., Burke, T., Butlin, R.K., Avcıc, A., Üzüm, N., Bozkurt, E., Olgun, K., Arntzen, J.W. (2017). A genomic footprint of hybrid zone movement in crested newts. Evolution Letters 1(2): 93-101.
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