Asymmetrical introgression between two Morus species (M. alba, M. rubra) that differ in abundance


Kevin S. Burgess, Present address: Biology Department, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA 22904. Fax: 434-982-5474; E-mail:


Asymmetrical introgression is an expected genetic consequence of hybridization when parental taxa differ in abundance; however, evidence for such effects in small populations is scarce. To test this prediction, we estimated the magnitude and direction of hybridization between red mulberry (Morus rubra L.), an endangered species in Canada, and the introduced and more abundant white mulberry (Morus alba L.) using nuclear (randomly amplified polymorphic DNA) and cytoplasmic (chloroplast DNA sequence) markers. Parentage of 184 trees (n = 42 using cpDNA) from four sympatric populations was estimated using a hybrid index and related to six morphological characters and population frequencies of the parental classes. Overall, the frequency of nuclear hybrids was 53.7% (n = 99) and ranged from 43% to 67% among populations. The parental and hybrid taxa differed with respect to all of the morphological traits. Sixty-seven percent of all hybrids contained more nuclear markers from M. alba than M. rubra (hybrid index  = 0.46); among populations, the degree of M. alba bias was correlated with the frequency of M. alba. In addition, the majority of hybrids (68%) contained the chloroplast genome of white mulberry. These results suggest that introgression is bidirectional but asymmetrical and is related, in part, to the relative frequency of parental taxa.