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The importance of pre-mating barriers and the local demographic context for contemporary mating patterns in hybrid zones of Eucalyptus aggregata and Eucalyptus rubida


David L. Field, Fax: +1 416-978-5878; E-mail:


The frequency of hybridization in plants is context dependent and can be influenced by the local mating environment. We used progeny arrays and admixture and pollen dispersal analyses to assess the relative importance of pre-mating reproductive barriers and the local demographic environment as explanations of variation in hybrid frequency in three mapped hybrid zones of Eucalyptus aggregata and E. rubida. A total of 731 open-pollinated progeny from 36 E. aggregata maternal parents were genotyped using six microsatellite markers. Admixture analysis identified substantial variation in hybrid frequency among progeny arrays (0–76.9%). In one hybrid zone, hybrid frequency was related to pre-mating barriers (degree of flowering synchrony) and demographic components of the local mating environment (decreasing population size, closer proximity to E. rubida and hybrid trees). At this site, average pollen dispersal distance was less and almost half (46%) of the hybrid progeny were sired by local E. rubida and hybrid trees. In contrast, at the other two sites, pre-mating and demographic factors were not related to hybrid frequency. Compared to the first hybrid zone where most of the E. rubida (76%) and all hybrids flowered, in the remaining sites fewer E. rubida (22–41%) and hybrid trees (0–50%) flowered and their reproductive success was lower (sired 0–23% of hybrids). As a result, most hybrids were sired by external E. rubida/hybrids located at least 2–3 km away. These results indicate that although pre-mating barriers and local demography can influence patterns of hybridization, their importance can depend upon the scale of pollen dispersal.