• Ancestry;
  • hybridization;
  • hybrid zones;
  • Senecio;
  • spatial isolation;
  • speciation

Abstract Homoploid hybrid speciation occurs through stabilization of a hybrid segregate (or segregates) isolated by premating and/or postmating barriers from parent taxa. Theory predicts that ecological and spatial isolation are of critical importance during homoploid hybrid speciation, and all confirmed homoploid hybrid species are ecologically isolated from their parents. Until recently, such species have been identified long after they originated, and consequently it has not been possible to determine the relative importance of spatial and ecological isolation during their origin. Here we present evidence for the recent origin (within the past 300 years) of a new homoploid hybrid species, Senecio squalidus (Asteraceae), in the British Isles, following long-distance dispersal of hybrid material from a hybrid zone between S. aethnensis and S. chrysanthemifolius on Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy. Historical records show that such hybrid material from Sicily was introduced to the Oxford Botanic Garden in Britain in the early part of the 18th century and that S. squalidus began to spread from there after approximately 90 years. A survey of randomly amplified polymorphic DNA/intersimple sequence repeats (RAPD/ISSR) marker variation demonstrated that S. squalidus is a diploid hybrid derivative of S. aethnensi and S. chrysanthemifolius that grow at high and low altitudes, respectively, on Mount Etna and that form a hybrid zone at intermediate altitudes. Senecio squalidus contained 11 of 13 RAPD/ISSR markers that were recorded at high frequency in S. chrysanthemifolius but were absent or occurred at low frequency in S. aethnensis, and 10 of 13 markers for which the reverse was true. Bayesian admixture analysis showed that all individuals of S. squalidus surveyed were of mixed anestry with relatively high mean proportions of ancestry derived from both S. chrysanthemifolius and S. aethnensis (0.644 and 0.356, respectively). We argue that long-distance isolation of hybrid material from its parents on Mount Etna would have helped favor the origin and establishment of S. squalidus in the British Isles, regardless of whether the initial hybrid material introduced to Britain was preadapted to local conditons.