Epistatic mutations under divergent selection govern phenotypic variation in the crow hybrid zone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The evolution of genetic barriers opposing interspecific gene flow is key to the origin of new species. Drawing from information on over 400 admixed genomes sourced from replicate transects across the European hybrid zone between all-black carrion crows and grey-coated hooded crows, we decipher the interplay between phenotypic divergence and selection at the molecular level. Over 68% of plumage variation was explained by epistasis between the gene NDP and a ~2.8-megabase region on chromosome 18 with suppressed recombination. Both pigmentation loci showed evidence for divergent selection resisting introgression. This study reveals how few, large-effect loci can govern prezygotic isolation and shield phenotypic divergence from gene flow.


  • Ulrich Knief
  • Christen M. Bossu
  • Nicola Saino
  • Bengt Hansson
  • Jelmer Poelstra
  • Nagarjun Vijay
  • Matthias Weissensteiner
  • Jochen B.W. Wolf
External organisations
  • Uppsala University
  • Stockholm University
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of Milan
  • Duke University
  • Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Bhopal
  • Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Evolutionary Biology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-576
Number of pages7
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch