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Am J Bot. 2001 Feb;88(2):270-7.

Transgressive character expression in a hybrid sunflower species.

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Indiana University, Department of Biology, Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA;


Diploid hybrid lineages often are ecologically distinct from their parental species. However, it is unclear whether this niche divergence is typically achieved via hybrid intermediacy, a mixture of parental traits, and/or the evolution of extreme (transgressive) morphological and ecophysiological features. Here we compare an extensively studied hybrid sunflower species, Helianthus anomalus, with its putative parents, H. annuus and H. petiolaris, for 41 morphological and 12 ecophysiological traits. Helianthus anomalus was morphologically intermediate for one trait (2.4%), parental-like for 23 traits (56.1%), and transgressive for 17 traits (41.5%). For ecophysiological traits, H. anomalus was not significantly different from one or both parents for nine traits (75%), and was transgressive for the remaining three (25%). Thus, H. anomalus appears to be a mosaic of parental-like and transgressive phenotypes. Although the fitness effects of the transgressive characters are not yet known, many of these characters are consistent with adaptations reported for other sand dune plants. Genetic studies are currently underway to ascertain whether these extreme characters arose as a direct byproduct of hybridization or whether they evolved via mutational divergence.

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