On the evolution of heavy-metal tolerant populations in Armeria maritima: evidence from allozyme variation and reproductive barriers

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Abstract

The process of ecological differentiation leading to the evolution of heavy-metal tolerant populations in Armeria maritima was studied by comparing population genetic structure and pattern of gene flow between populations growing on heavy-metal contaminated against non-contaminated sites using allozyme markers. In addition the evolution of reproductive isolation among populations was studied by measuring pollen fertility in interpopulational hybrids. The allozyme data suggested that in A. maritima multiple independent evolutionary origins of heavy-metal tolerant populations have occurred in the absence of strong genetic bottlenecks. The pattern of gene flow among populations was consistent with the model of isolation by distance with considerable gene flow between neighbor populations, and no reduction of gene flow between tolerant and non-tolerant populations. Hence it appears that substantial gene flow has not hampered genetic differentiation, probably because of the high selection pressure for heavy-metal tolerance. The pattern of reproductive isolation among populations suggests that evolution of heavy-metal tolerant populations has not triggered the development of reproductive barriers against non-tolerant populations. However, partial reproductive isolation has occurred under geographic separation.

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