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J Integr Plant Biol. 2014 Apr;56(4):411-9. doi: 10.1111/jipb.12140. Epub 2014 Feb 11.

Pre- and post-zygotic reproductive isolation between co-occurring Mussaenda pubescens var. alba and M. shikokiana (Rubiaceae).

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Key Laboratory of Plant Resources Conservation and Sustainable Utilization, South China Botanical Garden, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, 510650, China.


Reproductive isolation is a fundamental requirement for speciation and includes several sequential stages. Few studies have determined the relative contributions of pre- and post-zygotic reproductive isolation in plants, especially between relative species with clear differentiation in flower form. To investigate the mechanisms responsible for reproductive isolation in sympatric Mussaenda pubescens var. alba and Mussaenda shikokiana (Rubiaceae) in Guangxi Province, China, we made observations of flowering phenology, patterns of insect visitation, and conducted pollination experiments, including artificial hybridization. The two species had overlapping flowering times and were pollinated by overlapping pollinators; however, their relative importance differed significantly with M. pubescens visited more commonly by bees and M. shikokiana more frequently by butterflies. Using vegetative and floral characters and molecular evidence based on nuclear ribosomal internal and external transcribed spacer regions we detected seven naturally occurring hybrids among a sample of approximately 125 individuals. Hybrids were characterized by morphologies that most closely resembled their maternal parents based on chloroplast evidence. Studies of artificially synthesized and natural hybrids demonstrated that hybrid seed had very low germination rates and naturally occurring hybrids exhibited pollen sterility. Post-zygotic reproductive isolating mechanisms play a primary role in limiting gene exchange between co-occurring species and maintaining species integrity in areas of sympatry.


Gene flow; Mussaenda; natural hybrids; reproductive isolation; sympatric congeners

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