Interspecific hybridization is common in nature but can be increased in frequency or even originated by human actions, such as species introduction or habitat modification, which may threaten species persistence. When hybridization occurs between distantly related species, referred to as "distant hybridization," the resulting hybrids are generally infertile or fertile but do not undergo chromosomal recombination during gametogenesis. Here, we present a model describing this frequent but poorly studied interspecific hybridization to assess its consequences on parental species and to anticipate the conditions under which they can reach extinction. Our general model fully incorporates three important processes: density-dependent competition, dominance/recessivity inheritance of traits and assortative mating. We demonstrate its use and flexibility by assessing population extinction risk between Atlantic salmon and brown trout in Norway, whose interbreeding has recently increased due to farmed fish releases into the wild. We identified the set of conditions under which hybridization may threaten salmonid species. Thanks to the flexibility of our model, we evaluated the effect of an additional risk factor, a parasitic disease, and showed that the cumulative effects dramatically increase the extinction risk. The consequences of distant hybridization are not genetically, but demographically mediated. Our general model is useful to better comprehend the evolution of such hybrid systems and we demonstrated its importance in the field of conservation biology to set up management recommendations when this increasingly frequent type of hybridization is in action.
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