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Outcrossing rates in two self-compatible, hybridising Rhinanthus species: implications for hybrid formation


  • Editor
    X.-Q. Wang

R. A. Wesselingh, Biodiversity Research Centre, Earth & Life Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, Croix du Sud 4-5, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.


The congeners Rhinanthus angustifolius and Rhinanthus minor, two annual hemiparasites pollinated by bumblebees, are known to hybridise in the wild. Both species are self-compatible, but the capacity for autonomous selfing is higher in R. minor. This suggests a difference in realized outcrossing rates, which have not been determined before in these species. Using microsatellites, both species turned out to have mixed mating systems, but with a much lower multilocus outcrossing rate (0.13) for R. minor compared to R. angustifolius (0.76). We hypothesised that a higher outcrossing rate should lead to a higher chance of heterospecific pollination, and we therefore determined the rate of hybrid formation on each species in an artificial mixed population. Hybrid seeds were produced at low frequency (4.5%), and no significant difference was found between the species. It is therefore likely that post-pollination processes influence hybrid seed formation to counteract the expected difference in heterospecific pollen deposition. We checked fruit set, seed set and the rate of autonomous selfing in controlled crosses in the greenhouse in 2 years, and found that fruit set (2003) or seed set (2010) were lower in R. angustifolius × R. minor crosses relative to the reciprocal cross. Hybrid seeds produced on R. angustifolius also had a much lower germination rate, so most of the established F1 hybrid plants have the R. minor cytoplasm. The formation of advanced hybrids depends on pollinator preference, which is biased towards R. angustifolius if present in sufficient numbers, because it offers more rewards.