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Differential patterns of morphological and molecular hybridization between Fraxinus excelsior L. and Fraxinus angustifolia Vahl (Oleaceae) in eastern and western France


Juan F. Fernández-Manjarrés, Fax: 33-1-69 15 4697; E-mail:


We examined large-scale patterns of morphology, genetic structure and ecological correlates of Fraxinus excelsior and the closely related species Fraxinus angustifolia in France, in order to determine the degree of hybridization between them. We sampled 24 populations in two putative hybrid zones (Loire and Saône), and five control populations of each species. We measured foliar characteristics of adult trees and used five nuclear microsatellites as molecular markers. Canonical discriminant analysis indicated that the two species differ in morphology, but that intermediate types are common in the Loire region but less frequent in the Saône region. Bayesian population assignment identified one F. angustifolia and two F. excelsior gene pools. Most Loire individuals clustered genetically with the F. angustifolia gene pool. In contrast, the Saône region presented individuals belonging mostly to F. excelsior pools, although the F. angustifolia type was frequent in certain populations. The lowest FST values were found between the Loire and F. angustifolia controls that also exhibited no significant isolation by distance. The proportion of the F. angustifolia gene pool in each locality was negatively correlated with winter temperatures, suggesting that a cold climate may be limiting. Hybridization is probably favoured by the intermediate climatic conditions in the Loire region that allow both species to occur, but is somewhat hampered by the harsher winters in the Saône area where morphological introgression has apparently not yet occurred.