Hybridization and asymmetric reproductive isolation between the closely related bryophyte taxa Polytrichum commune and P. uliginosum


M. van der Velde. Fax: + 31 50 3632348; E-mail: m.van.der.velde@biol.rug.nl


Based on genetic differentiation, the haploid dioecious bryophyte taxa Polytrichum commune and P. uliginosum have been inferred to be completely reproductively isolated. However, analysing diploid sporophytes from a sympatric population for three diagnostic microsatellite markers, we show here that reproductive isolation between these taxa is far more complex and highly asymmetric. Isolation between ♀-P. commune×♂-P. uliginosum seems to be complete and prezygotic (or early postzygotic) as no hybrid sporophytes were observed on P. commune females. In the other direction (♀-P. uliginosum×♂-P. commune) isolation was clearly postzygotic as high frequencies of hybrid sporophytes were found on P. uliginosum females. However, during maturation these sporophytes showed irregular development, indicating that hybrid sporophytes are unlikely to produce ripe spores. Mechanisms possibly underlying this asymmetric reproductive isolation pattern are discussed. Notwithstanding hybrid offspring being unlikely, the high frequency of hybrid sporophytes observed suggests that viable spores may be formed occasionally through such rare processes as chromosome nondisjunction, possibly giving rise to allodiploids. Allodiploids have been reported in Polytrichum (and other bryophyte genera). Studies such as the one presented here will therefore help to elucidate the evolutionary importance of interspecific hybridization and allodiploidization in bryophyte speciation.