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Conspecific rape often increases male reproductive success. However, the haste and aggression of forced copulations suggests that males may sometimes rape heterospecific females, thus making rape a likely, but undocumented, source of hybrids between broadly sympatric species. We present evidence that heterospecific rape may be the source of hybrids between Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses (Phoebastria nigripes, and P. immutabilis, respectively). Extensive field studies have shown that paired (but not unpaired) males of both of these albatross species use rape as a supplemental reproductive strategy. Between species differences in size, timing of laying, and aggressiveness suggest that Black-footed Albatrosses should be more successful than Laysan Albatrosses in heteropspecific rape attempts, and male Black-footed Albatrosses have been observed attempting to force copulations on female Laysan Albatrosses. Nuclear markers showed that the six hybrids we studied were F1s and mitochondrial markers showed that male Black-footed Albatrosses sired all six hybrids. The siring asymmetry found in our hybrids may have long persisted because an IM analysis suggests that long-term gene exchange between these species has been from Black-footed Albatrosses into Laysan Albatrosses. If hybrids are sired in heterospecific rapes, they presumably would be raised and sexually imprinted on Laysan Albatrosses, and two unmated hybrids in a previous study courted only Laysan Albatrosses.
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