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The evolution of sex is tempered by costly hybridization in Boechera (rock cress)

By Catherine A. Rushworth, Tom Mitchell-Olds

Posted 12 Feb 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.02.11.944256

Even after decades of research, the evolution of sex remains an enigma in evolutionary biology. Typically, research addresses the costs of sex and asexuality to characterize the circumstances in which one reproductive system is more favorable. Yet surprisingly few studies address the influence of common traits that are obligately correlated with asexuality, including hybridization and polyploidy; even though these traits have substantial impacts on selective patterns. In particular, hybridization is well-known to alter trait expression; these alterations may themselves represent a cost of sex. We examined the role of reproductive isolation in the formation of de novo hybrid lineages between two widespread species in the ecological model system Boechera . Of 664 crosses between Boechera stricta and Boechera retrofracta , 17% of crosses produced F1 fruits. This suggests that postmating prezygotic barriers, i.e. pollen-pistil interactions, form the major barrier to hybrid success in this system. These interactions are asymmetrical, with 110 F1 fruits produced when B. stricta was the maternal parent. This asymmetry was confirmed using a chloroplast phylogeny of wild-collected B. stricta , B. retrofracta , and hybrids, which showed that most hybrids have a B. stricta chloroplast haplotype. We next compared fitness of F2 hybrids and selfed parental B. stricta lines, finding that F2 fitness was reduced by substantial hybrid sterility. Our results suggest that multiple reproductively isolating barriers likely influence the formation and fitness of hybrid lineages in the wild, and that these costs of hybridization likely have profound impacts on the costs of sex in the natural environment.

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