Occurrence and extent of hybridisation between the invasive Mallard Duck and native Yellow-billed Duck in South Africa

Kirstin Stephens, John Measey, Chevonne Reynolds, Johannes J. Le Roux*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Hybridisation between invasive and native species represents a significant threat to biodiversity. The Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) is known to hybridise with numerous closely related Anas species in regions where they have been introduced, threatening the genetic integrity of native ducks and in some instances contributing to their extinction risk. Mallard Ducks were introduced into South Africa in the 1940s and are now naturalised and widespread in the country. It has been speculated that Mallard Ducks are hybridising with native Yellow-billed Ducks (A. undulata) in South Africa, but evidence for this remains observational or purely anecdotal. Here we use data from nuclear microsatellite markers and mitochondrial DNA sequencing to show that hybridisation is indeed occuring between these two species. We found evidence for the occurance of hybridisation, mostly as crosses between Mallard Duck hens and Yellow-billed Duck drakes. Surprisingly, our results suggest that introgressive hybridisation is primarily occuring into the invasive Mallard Duck population (mostly Mallard Duck backcrosses were detected), evidenced by directionally-skewed gene flow and sex-biased mating. Whether these findings reflect true assortative mating or a case of Haldane’s rule remains unknown. We also found evidence of high connectivity between Yellow-billed Duck populations, as far as 1000 km apart, in South Africa. Taken together these results suggest that hybrid genotypes can disperse over vast distances between populations and lead to genetic pollution, even in the absence of invasive Mallard Ducks. Active management of Mallard Duck populations has been met by public resistance in some areas in South Africa, partly because of a lack of evidence showing clear impacts by these birds. This study provides some of the first scientifically-documented evidence for such impacts.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)693-707
    Number of pages15
    JournalBiological Invasions
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


    • Anas
    • Directional introgression
    • Introgressive hybridisation
    • Invasive bird
    • Mallard Duck


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