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Heredity (Edinb). 2006 Feb;96(2):175-84.

Endemic North African Quercus afares Pomel originates from hybridisation between two genetically very distant oak species (Q. suber L. and Q. canariensis Willd.): evidence from nuclear and cytoplasmic markers.

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  • 1UMR 5175 Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1919 Route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier Cedex 5, France.


Hybridisation is a potent force in plant evolution, although there are few reported examples of stabilised species that have been created through homoploid hybridisation. We focus here on Quercus afares, an endemic North African species that combines morphological, physiological and ecological traits of both Q. suber and Q. canariensis, two phylogenetically distant species. These two species are sympatric with Q. afares over most of its distribution. We studied two Q. afares populations (one from Algeria and one from Tunisia), as well as several populations of both Q. suber and Q. canariensis sampled both within and outside areas where these species overlap with Q. afares. A genetic analysis was conducted using both nuclear (allozymes) and chloroplastic markers, which shows that Q. afares originates from a Q. suber x Q. canariensis hybridisation. At most loci, Q. afares predominantly possesses alleles from Q. suber, suggesting that the initial cross between Q. suber and Q. canariensis was followed by backcrossing with Q. suber. Other hypotheses that can account for this result, including genetic drift, gene silencing, gene conversion and selection, are discussed. A single Q. suber chlorotype was detected, and all Q. afares individuals displayed this chlorotype, indicating that Q. suber was the maternal parent. Q. afares is genetically, morphologically and ecologically differentiated from its parental species, and can therefore be considered as a stabilised hybrid species.

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