Limited effective gene flow between two interfertile red oak species

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Key message: Highly elevated differentiation in different life stages between two interfertile oak species at aCONSTANS-like gene suggests a role of this gene in pre-zygotic isolation and adaptive divergence between species. Abstract: Genome-wide differentiation patterns among oak species suggest that divergent selection can maintain species-specific adaptations and morphological integrity by reducing effective interspecific gene flow. While there is evidence for both pre- and post-zygotic isolation mechanisms in oaks (e.g., differences in flowering time, selection against hybrids), these mechanisms are rarely studied at each life stage from acorns to adult trees within the same forest. To assess the reproductive isolation mechanisms between two ecologically divergent species, we (1) quantified the number of hybrids in different life stages in Quercus rubra and Quercus ellipsoidalis, two interfertile red oaks with different adaptations to drought, and (2) assessed the timing of bud burst in both natural populations and in a seedling common garden trial. The low number of hybrids in all life stages suggested pre-zygotic isolation between species or selection in very early life stages that have not been sampled (e.g., early seed abortion). Significant differences in bud burst were found in two consecutive years between species in a common garden seedling trial but not in natural populations of the same provenance. In addition, we found evidence for divergent selection on several gene loci between species in each life stage. In particular, an SSR repeat located within the coding sequence of a CONSTANS-like gene, a locus involved in the photoperiodic regulation of flowering time and development, showed very high interspecific differentiation between species in all life stages (mean F < inf> ST = 0.83), compared to the average neutral differentiation of 3.7 %.

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Trees - Structure and Function