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Keywords:

  • Leaf anatomy;
  • polytopic hybrid origin;
  • transgressive segregation;
  • Vaccinium myrtillus ;
  • Vaccinium vitis-idaea ;
  • Vaccinium × intermedium

Abstract

We investigated the anatomical expression of leaf traits in hybrids between evergreen Vaccinium vitis-idaea and deciduous V. myrtillus. We compared parents from four populations with their respective F1 hybrids and tested whether (i) transgression can be the source of novel anatomical traits in hybrids; (ii) expression of transgressive traits is more probable for traits with similar values in parents and intermediate for more distinct values, as predicted by theory; and (iii) independent origin of hybrids leads to identical trait expression profiles among populations. We found that anatomical leaf traits can be divided into four categories based on their similarity to parents: intermediate, parental-like, transgressive and non-significant. Contrary to the common view, parental-like trait values were equally important in shaping the hybrid profile, as were intermediate traits. Transgression was revealed in 17/144 cases and concerned mainly cell and tissue sizes. As predicted by theory, we observed transgressive segregation more often when there was little phenotypic divergence, but intermediate values when parental traits were differentiated. It is likely that cell and tissue sizes are phylogenetically more conserved due to stabilising selection, whereas traits such as leaf thickness and volume fraction of the intercellular spaces, showing a consistent intermediate pattern across populations, are more susceptible to directional selection. Hybrid populations showed little similarity in expression profile, with only three traits identically expressed across all populations. Thus local adaptation of parental species and specific genetic background may be of importance.