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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Oaks provide a model system to study maintenance of species identity by divergent selection since they maintain morphological differences and ecological adaptations despite interspecific hybridization. The genome of closely related interfertile oak species was shown to be largely homogeneous, with a few genomic areas exhibiting high interspecific differentiation possibly as result of strong divergent selection. Previously, a genic microsatellite was identified as under strong divergent selection, being nearly fixed on alternative alleles in the two interfertile North American red oak species: Quercus rubra L. and Quercus ellipsoidalis E.J. Hill. Further genotyping in two other red oak species—Quercus velutina Lam. and Quercus coccinea Münchh.—revealed a similar bias for the Q. ellipsoidalis-specific allele. To further elucidate the basis of this differentiation, we sequenced the microsatellite in individuals from all four red oak species. Sequence variability was observed in the microsatellite motif which encodes a poly-Q repeat in a COL gene involved in phenology and growth. Furthermore, in neighboring (parapatric) Q. rubra/Q. ellipsoidalis populations, introgression of the Q. ellipsoidalis-specific allele into Q. rubra occurred at a lower rate than introgression of the Q. rubra-specific allele into Q. ellipsoidalis despite symmetric interspecific gene flow, indicating potential adaptive introgression. Introgression of adaptive alleles can be an important mechanism for rapid adaptation to new environmental conditions (e.g., climate change).

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© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license ( Publisher’s version of record:

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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