‘Evolution Canyon’ (ECI) at Lower Nahal Oren, Mount Carmel, Israel, is an optimal natural microscale model for unravelling evolution in action highlighting the twin evolutionary processes of adaptation and speciation. A major model organism in ECI is wild barley, Hordeum spontaneum, the progenitor of cultivated barley, which displays dramatic interslope adaptive and speciational divergence on the ‘African’ dry slope (AS) and the ‘European’ humid slope (ES), separated on average by 200 m. Here we examined interslope single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) sequences and the expression diversity of the drought resistant dehydrin 1 gene (Dhn1) between the opposite slopes. We analysed 47 plants (genotypes), 4–10 individuals in each of seven stations (populations) in an area of 7000 m2, for Dhn1 sequence diversity located in the 5′ upstream flanking region of the gene. We found significant levels of Dhn1 genic diversity represented by 29 haplotypes, derived from 45 SNPs in a total of 708 bp sites. Most of the haplotypes, 25 out of 29 (= 86.2%), were represented by one genotype; hence, unique to one population. Only a single haplotype was common to both slopes. Genetic divergence of sequence and haplotype diversity was generally and significantly different among the populations and slopes. Nucleotide diversity was higher on the AS, whereas haplotype diversity was higher on the ES. Interslope divergence was significantly higher than intraslope divergence. The applied Tajima D rejected neutrality of the SNP diversity. The Dhn1 expression under dehydration indicated interslope divergent expression between AS and ES genotypes, reinforcing Dhn1 associated with drought resistance of wild barley at ‘Evolution Canyon’. These results are inexplicable by mutation, gene flow, or chance effects, and support adaptive natural microclimatic selection as the major evolutionary divergent driving force.
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