• gene flow;
  • hybridization;
  • introgression;
  • polyploidy;
  • RAY;
  • ray florets;
  • Senecio


Gene flow from diploid to polyploid species could have significant effects on the morphology and ecology of polyploids. The potential of such introgression for bringing about evolutionary change within polyploids has long been recognized, although there are few examples of the process in the wild. Here, we focus on introgression between the diploid species, Senecio squalidus, and the tetraploid, S. vulgaris, which resulted in the origin of a variant form of S. vulgaris that produces radiate rather than nonradiate flower heads. The radiate variant of S. vulgaris is more attractive to pollinators and has a higher outcrossing rate. We review recent work that has isolated and characterized two regulatory genes, RAY1 and RAY2, that control presence of ray florets in radiate flower heads, and which have been introgressed into S. vulgaris from S. squalidus in the recent past. We identify a copy of RAY2 in S. vulgaris (RAY2b) homeologous to the copy (RAY2a) previously isolated, thus providing further evidence that S. vulgaris is allotetraploid. We also show that the RAY2a-R allele, which is fixed in radiate S. vulgaris, occurs at intermediate frequency in S. squalidus. Thus, based on this result, it is not possible to distinguish whether radiate S. vulgaris originated once or multiple times following hybridization between nonradiate S. vulgaris and S. squalidus.