Is there hybridization between diploid and tetraploid Euphrasia in a secondary contact zone?
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American Journal of Botany
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Abstract. Premise. Strong postzygotic reproductive isolating barriers are usually expected to limit the extent of natural hybridization between species with contrasting ploidy. However, genomic sequencing has revealed previously overlooked examples of natural cross-ploidy hybridization in some flowering plant genera, suggesting that the phenomenon may be more common than once thought. We investigated potential cross-ploidy hybridization in British eyebrights (Euphrasia, Orobanchaceae), a group from which 13 putative cross-ploidy hybrid combinations have been reported based on morphology. Methods. We analyzed a contact zone between diploid Euphrasia rostkoviana and tetraploid E. arctica in Wales. We sequenced part of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) of nuclear ribosomal DNA and used genotyping by sequencing (GBS) to look for evidence of cross-ploidy hybridization and introgression. Results. Common variant sites in the ITS region were fixed between diploids and tetraploids, indicating a strong barrier to hybridization. Clustering analyses of 356 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) generated using GBS clearly separated samples by ploidy and revealed strong genetic structure (FST = 0.44). However, the FST distribution across all SNPs was bimodal, indicating potential differential selection on loci between diploids and tetraploids. Demographic inference suggested potential gene flow, limited to around one or fewer migrants per generation. Conclusions. Our results suggest that recent cross-ploidy hybridization is rare or absent in a site of secondary contact in Euphrasia. While a strong ploidy barrier prevents hybridization over ecological timescales, such hybrids may form in stable populations over evolutionary timescales, potentially allowing cross-ploidy introgression to take place.
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