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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Clines in traits compared over two decades in a plant hybrid zone.

  • Author(s): Campbell, Diane R
  • Faidiga, Alexandra
  • Trujillo, Gabriel
  • et al.

Background and Aims:Clines in traits across hybrid zones reflect a balance between natural selection and gene flow. Changes over time in average values for traits, and especially the shapes of their clines, are rarely investigated in plants, but could result from evolution in an unstable hybrid zone. Differences in clines between floral and vegetative traits could indicate different strengths of divergent selection. Methods:Five floral and two vegetative traits were measured in 12 populations along an elevational gradient spanning a natural hybrid zone between Ipomopsis aggregata and Ipomopsis tenuituba. We compared clines in the floral traits with those measured 25 years ago. Observed changes in mean trait values were compared with predictions based on prior estimates of natural selection. We also compared the steepness and position of clines between the floral and vegetative traits. Key Results:Corolla length has increased over five generations to an extent that matches predictions from measurements of phenotypic selection and heritability. The shape of its cline, and that of other traits, has not changed detectably. Clines varied across traits, but not all floral traits showed steeper clines than did vegetative traits. Both suites of morphological traits had steeper clines than did neutral molecular markers. Conclusions:The increase in corolla length provides a rare example of a match between predicted and observed evolution of a plant trait in natural populations. The clinal properties are consistent with the hypothesis that habitat-mediated divergent selection on vegetative traits and pollinator-mediated selection on floral traits both maintain species differences across the hybrid zone.

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