Natural hybridization and hybrid zones between Quercus crassifolia and Quercus crassipes (Fagaceae) in Mexico: morphological and molecular evidence

Efraín Tovar-Sánchez, Ken Oyama
American Journal of Botany 2004, 91 (9): 1352-63
Hybrid zones provide interesting systems to study genetic and ecological interaction between different species. The correct identification of hybrids is necessary to understand the evolutionary process involved in hybridization. An oak species complex occurring in Mexico formed by two parental species, Quercus crassifolia H. & B. and Q. crassipes H. & B., and their putative hybrid species, Q. dysophylla, was analyzed with molecular markers (random amplified polymorphic DNA [RAPDs]) and morphological tools in seven hybrid zones (10 trees per taxa in each hybrid zone) and two pure sites for each parental species (20 trees per site). We tested whether geographic proximity of hybrid plants to the allopatric site of a parental species increases its morphological and genetic similarity with its parent. Seventeen morphological traits were measured in 8700 leaves from 290 trees. Total DNA of 250 individuals was analyzed with six diagnostic RAPD primers. Quercus crassifolia differed significantly from Q. crassipes in all the examined characters. Molecular markers and morphological characters were highly coincident and support the hypothesis of hybridization in this complex, although both species remain distinct in mixed stands. Clusters and a hybrid index (for molecular and morphological data) showed that individuals from the same parental species were more similar among themselves than to putative hybrids, indicating occasional hybridization with segregation in hybrid types or backcrossing to parents. Evidence does not indicate a unidirectional pattern of gene flow.

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