Hybridization does not currently pose conservation concerns to murres in the Atlantic

  • Lila Colston-NepaliEmail author
  • Anna Tigano
  • Brian Boyle
  • Vicki Friesen
Short Communication


Hybridization can negatively impact one or both taxa involved and therefore pose conservation concerns. Climate change is expected to increase the rate of hybridization particularly in polar regions, and so investigating hybridization in Arctic and Antarctic species is important for conservation. Hybridization and genetic introgression have been observed between Pacific populations of thick-billed (Uria lomvia) and common murres (Uria aalge), species of seabirds with arctic and low arctic/temperate distributions, respectively. We employed double-digest restriction site-associated DNA sequencing (ddRADseq) to generate thousands of genome-wide markers to investigate hybridization and introgression in 133 thick-billed and 119 common murres sampled from 15 colonies throughout the North Atlantic. We used molecular assignments and principal components analysis to identify hybrids and quantify genetic introgression. Despite previous reports of hybridization between murre species in the Atlantic, we found no evidence for hybrid individuals in our dataset, and limited evidence for introgression. Our results suggest that hybridization between Atlantic murre species is rare, and does not currently pose a conservation concern for either species. Our study provides baseline data for monitoring hybridization between murres in the Atlantic to assess future impacts of climate change on these species.


Introgression Genomics Climate change Seabirds Arctic 



We would like to thank Greg Robertson, members of the Friesen lab, Robert Colautti and Sarah Yakimowski for invaluable guidance and advice. We would like to thank Bird Studies Canada, Wildlife Habitat Canada, the Stage program of Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Mitacs for funding. Thank you to Gilles Chapdelaine, Kyle Elliot, Tony Gaston, Yuri Krasnov, Mark Mallory, Bill Montevecchi, Nataly Nikolaeva, Aevar Peterson, Tone Reiertsen, Greg Robertson, and Environment and Climate Change Canada for sample collection/provision. Further thanks to Katie Birchard and Jade Goodman for DNA extraction, and Genome Québec for sequencing, and l’Institut de biologie intégrative et des systèmes de l’Université Laval for genomic library preparation.

Author contributions

LC-N and AT wrote the manuscript and performed analyses with input from VLF, AT conceived the study, AT and VLF obtained funds for the project, BB prepared ddRADseq libraries and developed a method to cheaply multiplex a high number of individual libraries.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Research described in this study conforms to a Queen’s UACC approved Animal Use Protocol.

Supplementary material

10592_2019_1223_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (18 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 17 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical SciencesUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Hubbard Center for Genome StudiesUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Institut de Biologie Intégrative et des SystèmesUniversité LavalQuébec CityCanada

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