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Keywords:

  • controlled crosses;
  • ecological speciation;
  • pollen–pistil interactions;
  • prezygotic barriers;
  • Quercus petraea;
  • Quercus robur;
  • reproductive isolation

Abstract

Very little is known about the nature and strength of reproductive isolation (RI) in Quercus species, despite extensive research on the estimation and evolutionary significance of hybridization rates. We characterized postmating pre- and postzygotic RI between two hybridizing oak species, Quercus robur and Quercus petraea, using a large set of controlled crosses between different genotypes. Various traits potentially associated with reproductive barriers were quantified at several life history stages, from pollen–pistil interactions to seed set and progeny fitness-related traits. Results indicate strong intrinsic postmating prezygotic barriers, with significant barriers also at the postzygotic level, but relatively weaker extrinsic barriers on early hybrid fitness measures assessed in controlled conditions. Using general linear modelling of common garden data with clonal replicates, we showed that most traits exhibited important genotypic differences, as well as different levels of sensitivity to micro-environmental heterogeneity. These new findings suggest a large potential genetic diversity and plasticity of reproductive barriers and are confronted with hybridization evidence in these oak species.