- • The Ranunculus cassubicus complex, comprising diploids and polyploids, is a good model for studying the role of hybridization and polyploidy in the origin of apomixis.
- • Results from amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) and simple sequence repeat (SSR) analyses performed on 448 individuals were combined with evidence from morphology, isozymes, karyology and distribution.
- • Our results indicated a unique hybrid origin for the apomictic hexaploid R. carpaticola from north-western Slovakia, involving two sexual parents: autotetraploid R. cassubicifolius from the northern pre-Alps, and diploid R. carpaticola from central Slovakia. The hybrids were intermediate to the parents, but unique alleles have resulted from genomic reorganisation in the allopolyploids, which might also have triggered apomixis. Their distribution patterns and estimated ages suggest that hybridization may be correlated with the last glacial period.
- • Hybridization seems to be the major origination for apomicts in the R. cassubicus complex. Polyploidy creates novel sexual genotypes and acts as a springboard for the production of new hybrids, but it only results in a combination with hybridization in apomixis. In turn, asexuality has permitted the perpetuation and establishment of ecologically divergent hybrid genotypes.