Despite large differences in morphology, behavior and lek-mating strategies the birds-of-paradise are known to hybridize occa- sionally, even across different genera. Many of these bird-of-paradise hybrids were originally described as distinct species based on large morphological differences when compared to recognized species. Nowadays, these specimens are generally recognized as hybrids based on morphological assessments. Having fascinated naturalists for centuries, hybrid specimens of birds-of-paradise have been collected and the specimens kept in Natural History Collections. In the present study, we utilize this remarkable resource in a museomics framework and evaluate the genomic composition of most described intergeneric hybrids and some intrageneric hybrids. We show that the majority of investigated specimens are first-generation hybrids and that the parental species, in most cases, are in line with prior morphological assessments. We also identify two specimens that are the result of introgressive hybridization between different genera. Additionally, two specimens exhibit hybrid morphologies but have no identifiable signals of hybridization, which may indicate that minor levels of introgression can have large morphological effects. Our findings provide direct evidence of contemporary introgressive hybridization taking place between genera of birds-of-paradise in nature, despite markedly different morphologies and lek-mating behaviors.

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Evolution Letters

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Staff publications

Thörn, Filip, Soares, André E R, Müller, Ingo A, Päckert, Martin, Frahnert, Sylke, van Grouw, Hein, … Irestedt, Martin. (2024). Contemporary intergeneric hybridization and backcrossing among birds-of-paradise. Evolution Letters, 2024. doi:10.1093/evlett/qrae023