Temporal cline in a hybrid zone population between Fraxinus excelsior L. and Fraxinus angustifolia Vahl


Pierre R. Gérard, Fax: +33 1 69 15 46 97; E-mail:


The two closely related ash species Fraxinus excelsior L. (common ash) and Fraxinus angustifolia Vahl (narrow-leaved ash) have a broad contact zone in France where they hybridize. However, little is known about the local structure of hybrid zone populations and the isolation mechanisms. We assessed the potential effect of floral phenology on the structure of a riparian ash hybrid zone population in central France. The distribution of flowering times was unimodal and lay between the flowering periods of the two species. Using microsatellite markers, we detected isolation by time, which has possibly originated from assortative mating. Multivariate analyses indicated that morphological variation is not distributed at random with respect to flowering times. Spatial autocorrelation analyses showed that temporal and spatial patterns were tightly linked. Interestingly, despite the fact that the population shows isolation by time, neighbourhood size and historical dispersal variance (σ̂ = 63 m) are similar to those detected in pure stands of F. excelsior where individuals flower rather synchronously and hermaphrodites are not the most frequent sexual type. Trees flowering at intermediate dates, which comprised the majority of the population, produced on average more flowers and fruits. We detected no significant differences in floral parasite infections relative to reproductive timing, although there was a tendency for late flowering trees to suffer from more gall attack. We discuss the impact of temporal variation in fitness traits and their possible role in the maintenance of the hybrid zone.