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UNF biology professor publishes results of hybrid fish study in Flagler Beach

Dr. Matthew Gilg, University of North Florida biology professor, recently published research on the existence of hybrid fish offspring from the Mummichog and the Gulf Killifish. The study encompasses research collections over the course of three years from Gamble Rogers State Park near Flagler Beach, Fla.  

Previous research has shown the possible existence of hybrid individuals between the Mummichog and the Gulf Killifish. To help fill in the missing gaps in knowledge about these species, Gilg and his team set out to discover just how prevalent hybrids are at this particular research site, if both first and multi-generational hybrids exist, the survival rate of these hybrids, and the reproductive barriers between the two fish species in nature.

Overall, the populations at Gamble Rogers State Park appear to be in flux, with patterns of natural selection changing across the course of the study. This suggests that as the climate and habitat continue to change in this area that the area of hybridization will likely change as well.

Gilg’s research found that hybrids made up more than 20% of the individuals at the study location and the vast majority of the individuals were multi-generational hybrids. The team discovered that hybrids had a lower survival rate than non-hybrids in general. They observed in the first two years of the study that mummichogs had higher survival than Gulf Killifish, but the Gulf Killifish had a reproductive advantage. In the last year of the study there was no apparent difference in survival of the two species. Research further indicated that reproductive barriers between the two species were fairly strong but seemed to fluctuate across the course of the study, and both environmental and non-environmental factors appear to be affecting survival at this location.

Read the full study on “Dynamic Cohort Analysis Reveals Fluctuating Patterns of Selection Within a Hybrid Zone Between the Killifish Fundulus heteroclitus and F. grandis” in Evolutionary Biology.