The evolutionary history of Antirrhinum suggests that ancestral phenotype combinations survived repeated hybridizations


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The model species Antirrhinum majus (the garden snapdragon) has over 20 close wild relatives that are morphologically diverse and adapted to different Mediterranean environments. Hybrids between Antirrhinum species have been used successfully to identify genes underlying their phenotypic differences, and to infer how selection acts on them. To better understand the genetic basis for this diversity, we have examined the evolutionary relationships between Antirrhinum species and how these relate to geography and patterns of phenotypic variation in the genus as a whole. Large population samples and both plastid and multilocus nuclear genotypes resolved the relationships between many species and provided some support for the traditional taxonomic division of the genus into morphological subsections. Morphometric analysis of plants grown in controlled conditions supported the phenotypic distinction of the two largest subsections, and the involvement of multiple underlying genes. Incongruence between nuclear and plastid genotypes further suggested that several species have arisen after hybridization between subsections, and that some species continue to hybridize. However, all potential hybrids appear to have retained a phenotype similar to one of their ancestors, suggesting that ancestral combinations of characters are maintained by selection at many different loci.