Environmental correlates of the European common toad hybrid zone
The interplay between intrinsic (development, physiology, behavior) and extrinsic (landscape features, climate) factors determines the outcome of admixture processes in hybrid zones, in a continuum from complete genetic merger to full reproductive isolation. Here we assess the role of environmental correlates in shaping admixture patterns in the long hybrid zone formed by the toads Bufo bufo and B. spinosus in western Europe. We used species-specific diagnostic SNP markers to genotype 6584 individuals from 514 localities to describe the contact zone and tested for association with topographic, bioclimatic and land use variables. Variables related to temperature and precipitation contributed to accurately predict the distribution of pure populations of each species, but the models did not perform well in areas where genetically admixed populations occur. A sliding window approach proved useful to identify different sets of variables that are important in different sections of this long and heterogeneous hybrid zone, and offers good potential to predict the fate of moving contact zones in global change scenarios.