Morphological and molecular evidence for hybridization and introgression in a willow (Salix) hybrid zone


S. J. Brunsfeld. Fax: +1-208 8856226;


Hybrid zones provide biologists with the opportunity to examine genetic and ecological interactions between differentiated populations. Accurate identification of hybrid genealogies is considered a necessary prerequisite to understanding observed patterns of hybridization–related phenomena. We analysed molecular and morphological data from individuals in a hybrid zone between two species of willows (Salix sericea Marshall and S. eriocephala Michaux) and report the use of randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD), chloroplast DNA (cpDNA), and ribosomal DNA (rDNA) markers, as well as vegetative morphology and foliar chemistry data to identify individuals in terms of hybrid genealogy and to infer the direction and extent of backcrossing and introgression within the hybrid zone. A novel version of a maximum likelihood estimate approach (developed for this study) was used to calculate hybrid index scores from RAPD marker data; this method produced results similar to those obtained using traditional arithmetic methods. Distribution of rDNA, cpDNA, and chemistry data were examined within the graphical context of RAPD–based hybrid index score histograms and principal component analyses (PCA) on RAPD and morphology data. Seven of the 21 plants classified as S. eriocephala in the field were possible introgressants. Another plant presented an unequivocal example of backcrossed S. sericea chemistry and RAPD markers. Inter– and intraspecific chloroplast diversity found within the hybrid zone suggests both historic introgression (perhaps in a glacial refugium), and contemporary hybridization. Patterns of inheritance and expression within the hybrid zone suggest that morphological characters are often not expressed in a simple additive fashion, and problems associated with both morphological and molecular data are considered.