Hybridization between two recently diverged Neotropical passerines: The Pearly-bellied Seedeater Sporophila pileata, and the Copper Seedeater S. bouvreuil (Aves, Passeriformes, Thraupidae)
The small Neotropical finches called capuchinos are outstanding because they have experienced one of the most recent and explosive avian radiations ever documented for birds. Despite very low morphological and niche divergence among species, many of them are reproductively isolated when in sympatry due to strong sexual selection in plumage traits. However, a specific pair of mostly parapatric species, the Pearly-bellied, Sporophila pileata, and the Copper Seedeaters, S. bouvreuil, has confounded taxonomists because individuals with intermediate color patterns can be found. By analyzing diagnostic COI mtDNA sequences and adult male plumage we provide evidence for hybridization. Paternity tests using microsatellites also indicated that representatives with intermediate plumage pattern can be fertile. Our findings are consistent with the classification of S. bouvreuil and S. pileata as distinct taxa, but we demonstrate that the sexual selection mechanisms involved in the isolation of other reproductively sympatric capuchinos are not applicable to this pair of species, likely because of reduced barriers to mate recognition.