Date of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Department or Program


First Advisor

David Carlon


Hybrid zones and their dynamics are important in the understanding of the genetic basis of reproductive isolation and speciation. This study seeks to investigate the hybridization dynamics of a Scarus hybrid swarm within the Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP) that includes four phenotypically distinct species: S. perrico, S. ghobban, S. rubroviolaceus, and S. compressus. Genetic and population structure analyses of four nuclear loci and a mitochondrial locus revealed that one of the four species, S. compressus, was the result of two different hybrid crosses: S. perricoS. rubroviolaceus and S. perricoS. ghobban. A NewHybrids model indicated that most of the S. compressus samples were F1 hybrids, but 21% of the S. compressus sample was classified as “parentals” which could also be explained by the presence of either F2 hybrids or backcrosses with S. compressus phenotypes, given the relatively low power of the nuclear data set (4 loci) to resolve complex hybrid genotypes. Significant mito-nuclear discordance in all three non-hybrid species is consistent with an evolutionary effect of backcrossing between F1 hybrids and “pure” species. This study reveals a relative ease of hybridization between parrotfish taxa separated by an estimated 4.5 million years of isolation and opens the door to further studies on the potential effects of gene flow across old species boundaries and perhaps the formation of new species by hybrid speciation in a diverse clade of tropical reef fish. Elucidating the nature of potentially “deep” F2 crosses and backcrosses within the TEP Scarus hybrid system will allow us to better understand the effects of hybridization on evolution and speciation on both a micro- and macro-ecological scale.