Landscape and taxon age are associated with differing patterns of hybridization in two Eucalyptus (Myrtaceae) subgenera

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BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Hybridization is an important evolutionary process that can have a significant impact on natural plant populations. Eucalyptus species are well known for weak reproductive barriers and extensive hybridization within subgenera, but there is little knowledge of whether patterns of hybridization differ among subgenera. Here, we examine eucalypts of Western Australia's Stirling Range to investigate how patterns of hybridization are associated with landscape and taxon age between the two largest Eucalyptus subgenera: Eucalyptus and Symphyomyrtus. In doing so, we tested a hypothesis of OCBIL (old, climatically buffered, infertile landscape) theory that predicts reduced hybridization on older landscapes. METHODS: Single nucleotide polymorphism markers were applied to confirm the hybrid status, parentage and genetic structure of five suspected hybrid combinations for subg. Eucalyptus and three combinations for subg. Symphyomyrtus. KEY RESULTS: Evidence of hybridization was found in all combinations, and parental taxa were identified for most combinations. The older parental taxa assessed within subg. Eucalyptus, which are widespread on old landscapes, were identified as well-defined genetic entities and all hybrids were exclusively F1 hybrids. In addition, many combinations showed evidence of clonality, suggesting that the large number of hybrids recorded from some combinations is the result of long-term clonal spread following a few hybridization events rather than frequent hybridization. In contrast, the species in subg. Symphyomyrtus, which typically occur on younger landscapes and are more recently evolved, showed less distinction among parental taxa, and where hybridization was detected, there were high levels of introgression. CONCLUSIONS: Reduced hybridization in subg. Eucalyptus relative to extensive hybridization in subg. Symphyomyrtus affirmed the hypothesis of reduced hybridization on OCBILs and demonstrate that clade divergence times, landscape age and clonality are important drivers of differing patterns of speciation and hybridization in Eucalyptus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-62
Number of pages14
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


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