Anthropogenic disturbance promotes hybridization between Banksia species by altering their biology


Prof. Byron Lamont, Department of Environmental Biology, Curtin University of Technology, PO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia. Tel.: +61 89266 7368; fax: +61 89266 2495; e-mail:


Abstract Putative hybrids between Banksia hookeriana and B. prionotes were identified among 12 of 106 populations of B. hookeriana located at or near anthropogenically disturbed sites, mainly roadways, but none in 156 undisturbed populations. Morphometrics and AFLP markers confirmed that a hybrid swarm existed in a selected disturbed habitat, whereas no intermediates were present where the two species co-occurred in undisturbed vegetation. Individuals of both species in disturbed habitats at 12 sites were more vigorous, with greater size and more flower heads than their counterparts in undisturbed vegetation. These more fecund plants also showed a shift in season and duration of flowering. By promoting earlier flowering of B. hookeriana plants and prolonging flowering of B. prionotes, anthropogenic disturbance broke the phenological barrier between these two species. We conclude that anthropogenic disturbance promotes hybridization through increasing opportunities for gene flow by reducing interpopulation separation, increasing gamete production and, especially, promoting coflowering.