Bombina bombina and B. variegata are two anciently diverged toad taxa that have adapted to different breeding habitats yet hybridize freely in zones of overlap where their parapatric distributions meet. Here, we report on a joint genetic and ecological analysis of a hybrid zone in the vicinity of Stryi in western Ukraine. We used five unlinked allozyme loci, two nuclear single nucleotide polymorphisms and a mitochondrial DNA haplotype as genetic markers. Parallel allele frequency clines with a sharp central step occur across a sharp ecotone, where transitions in aquatic habitat, elevation, and terrestrial vegetation coincide. The width of the hybrid zone, estimated as the inverse of the maximum gradient in allele frequency, is 2.3 km. This is the smallest of four estimates derived from different clinal transects across Europe. We argue that the narrow cline near Stryi is mainly due to a combination of habitat distribution and habitat preference. Adult toads show a preference for either ponds (B. bombina) or puddles (B. variegata), which is known to affect the distribution of genotypes within the hybrid zones. At Stryi, it should cause a reduction of the dispersal rate across the ecotone and thus narrow the cline. A detailed comparison of all five intensively studied Bombina transects lends support to the hypothesis that habitat distribution plus habitat preference can jointly affect the structure of hybrid zones and, ultimately, the resulting barriers to gene flow between differentiated gene pools. This study also represents a resampling of an area that was last studied more than 70 years ago. Our allele-frequency clines largely coincide with those that were described then on the basis of morphological variation. However, we found asymmetrical introgression of B. variegata genes into B. bombina territory along the bank of a river.
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Vol. 60 • No. 3