Incomplete reproductive isolation between Rhododendron taxa enables hybrid formation and persistence

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Integrative Plant Biology



First Page


Last Page



© 2018 Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences The evolutionary consequences of hybridization ultimately depend on the magnitude of reproductive isolation between hybrids and their parents. We evaluated the relative contributions of pre- and post-zygotic barriers to reproduction for hybrid formation, hybrid persistence and potential for reproductive isolation of hybrids formed between two Rhododendron species, R. spiciferum and R. spinuliferum. Our study established that incomplete reproductive isolation promotes hybrid formation and persistence and delays hybrid speciation. All pre-zygotic barriers to reproduction leading to hybrid formation are incomplete: parental species have overlapping flowering; they share the same pollinators; reciprocal assessments of pollen tube germination and growth do not differ among parents. The absence of post-zygotic barriers between parental taxa indicates that the persistence of hybrids is likely. Reproductive isolation was incomplete between hybrids and parents in all cases studied, although asymmetric differences in reproductive fitness were prevalent and possibly explain the genetic structure of natural hybrid swarms where hybridization is known to be bidirectional but asymmetric. Introgression, rather than speciation, is a probable evolutionary outcome of hybridization between the two Rhododendron taxa. Our study provides insights into understanding the evolutionary implications of natural hybridization in woody plants.

This document is currently not available here.