Hybridization is increasingly seen as a trigger for rapid evolution and speciation. To quantify and qualify divergence associated with recent homoploid hybrid speciation, we compared quantitative trait (QT) and molecular genetic variation between the homoploid hybrid species Senecio squalidus and its parental species, S. aethnensis and S. chrysanthemifolius, and also their naturally occurring Sicilian hybrids. S. squalidus originated and became invasive in the United Kingdom following the introduction of hybrid plants from Mount Etna, Sicily, about 300 years ago. We recorded considerable molecular genetic differentiation between S. squalidus and its parents and their Sicilian hybrids in terms of both reduced genetic diversity and altered allele frequencies, potentially due to the genetic bottleneck associated with introduction to the United Kingdom. S. squalidus is also distinct from its parents and Sicilian hybrids for QTs, but less so than for molecular genetic markers. We suggest that this is due to resilience of polygenic QTs to changes in allele frequency or lack of selection for hybrid niche divergence in geographic isolation. While S. squalidus is intermediate or parental-like for most QTs, some trangressively distinct traits were observed, which might indicate emerging local adaptation in its invasive range. This study emphasizes the important contribution of founder events and geographic isolation to successful homoploid hybrid speciation.
- hybrid speciation
- hybrid zones