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Evolution. 2001 Apr;55(4):669-76.

Genotype-by-environment interaction and the fitness of plant hybrids in the wild.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine 92697, USA.


Natural hybrid zones between related species illustrate processes that contribute to genetic differentiation and species formation. A common viewpoint is that hybrids are essentially unfit, but they exist in a stable tension zone where selection against them is balanced by gene flow between the parent species. An alternative idea is that selection depends on the environment, for example, by favoring opposite traits in the two parental habitats or favoring hybrids within a bounded region. To determine whether selection of hybrids is environment dependent, we crossed plants of naturally hybridizing Ipomopsis aggregata and I. tenuituba in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and reciprocally planted the seed offspring into a suite of natural environments across the hybrid zone. All types of crosses produced similar numbers and weights of seeds. However, survival of the offspring after 5 years differed markedly among cross types. On average, the F1 hybrids had survival and growth rates as high as the average for their parents. But hybrid survival depended strongly on the direction of a cross, that is, on which species served as the maternal parent. This fitness difference between reciprocal hybrids appeared only in the parental environments, suggesting cytonuclear gene interactions that are environment specific. These results indicate that complex genotype-by-environment interactions can contribute to the evolutionary outcome of hybridization.

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