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Keywords:

  • autopolyploidy;
  • psbAtrnHGUG;
  • relative fitness

Polyploidy may promote diversification by generating reproductive isolation between ploidy levels, but this reproductive barrier may not be absolute. Several recent analyses of diploid–tetraploid contact zones have found evidence for hybridization. In these cases, inter-cytotype gene flow is often associated with morphologically intergrading populations. In this study, we combine cytological, fitness and population genetic data to examine the evolutionary role of a morphologically intergrading population at a contact zone between species with different ploidy levels in Dodecatheon. Diploid D. frenchii and tetraploid D. meadia are usually distinguished by leaf-shape characters. In southern Illinois, where these taxa occur in parapatry, a morphologically intergrading population includes the first documented tetraploid with D. frenchii morphology. Most plants in this intergrading population are fertile, and a nearby typical population of D. meadia has plastid DNA haplotypes that only occur in D. frenchii elsewhere in southern Illinois. These results suggest that fit neo-tetraploids in this intergrading population have facilitated local introgression between ploidy levels. Similar patterns in other regions where these taxa co-occur may explain weak range-wide genetic differentiation between these species. © 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, 168, 91–100.