H: Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Diploid–Hexaploid Contact Zone

Breeding Barriers at a Diploid–Hexaploid Contact Zone in Aster amellus

Sılvia Castro, Zuzana Munzbergova, Jana Raabova, and Joao Loureiro


Polyploidization is an important mechanism of sympatric speciation, but few studies have addressed breeding barriers between polyploids and their diploid progenitors in the field, and the available data have been mainly obtained from diploid-tetraploid contact zones. In contrast to diploid-tetraploid complexes, hybridization between diploid and hexaploid individuals may lead to viable fertile tetraploid offspring, and thus the interactions between these ploidy levels can be more complex. We investigated the breeding barriers operating between diploid and hexaploid individuals of Aster amellus at a contact zone in Central Europe to understand the absence of hybrids (i.e., tetraploids) and mixed populations. Phenological segregation, assortative mating mediated by pollinators and crossing ability were assessed under natural and controlled conditions in diploid and hexaploid populations growing in close proximity. The results revealed low levels of reproductive isolation (RI) due to flowering phenology (RI = 11–45%) and pollinator behavior (RI = 17%), so that pollen transfer between diploids and hexaploids is possible.

In contrast, almost complete reproductive isolation was observed due to a series of postpollination barriers that significantly reduced the production of offspring from inter-cytotype crosses (RI = 99.9%), even though some tetraploids were detected in seeds and seedlings. We conclude that the absence of tetraploids at the contact zone is probably due to a combination of several factors, including spatial segregation, strong post-pollination barriers (such as gametic isolation, low viability of tetraploid seeds and/or inability of tetraploid plants to reach the flowering stage), and to a lesser extent, temporal and behavioral segregation. Future studies should explore the fitness of tetraploids and the effect of different traits on the reproductive success and fitness of each cytotype. This will enable a fuller understanding of the dynamics and mechanisms acting in contact zones.
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