” Our research shows how the presence of these humanmade chemicals leads to a greater likelihood of hybridization between species” concluded Dr Jessica Ward from the University of Minnesota, “This can have severe ecological and evolutionary consequences, including the potential for the decline of our native species.”
Environmental change can increase the likelihood of interspecific hybridization by altering properties of mate recognition and discrimination between sympatric congeners. We examined how exposure to an environmentally widespread endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC), bisphenol A (BPA), affected visual communication signals and behavioral isolation between an introduced freshwater fish and a native congener (genus: Cyprinella). Exposure to BPA induced changes in the expression of male secondary traits as well as male and female mate choice, leading to an overall reduction in prezygotic isolation between congeners. Changes in female mate discrimination were not tightly linked to changes in male phenotypic traits, suggesting that EDC exposure may alter female choice thresholds independently of the effects of exposure on males. These findings indicate that environmental exposure to EDCs can lead to population declines via the erosion of species boundaries and by promoting the establishment and spread of non-native species via hybridization.
Sources : Exposure to an environmental estrogen breaks down sexual isolation between native and invasive species – Get PDF, 10 July 2012.