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Keywords:

  • Dobzhansky–Muller incompatibility;
  • hybrid incompatibility;
  • Mimulus;
  • natural variation;
  • speciation

Understanding the process by which hybrid incompatibility alleles become established in natural populations remains a major challenge to evolutionary biology. Previously, we discovered a two-locus Dobzhansky–Muller incompatibility that causes severe hybrid male sterility between two inbred lines of the incompletely isolated wildflower species, Mimulus guttatus and M. nasutus. An interspecific cross between these two inbred lines revealed that the M. guttatus (IM62) allele at hybrid male sterility 1 (hms1) acts dominantly in combination with recessive M. nasutus (SF5) alleles at hybrid male sterility 2 (hms2) to cause nearly complete hybrid male sterility. In this report, we extend these genetic analyses to investigate intraspecific variation for the hms1–hms2 incompatibility in natural populations of M. nasutus and M. guttatus, performing a series of interspecific crosses between individuals collected from a variety of geographic locales. Our results suggest that hms2 incompatibility alleles are common and geographically widespread within M. nasutus, but absent or rare in M. guttatus. In contrast, the hms1 locus is polymorphic within M. guttatus and the incompatibility allele appears to be extremely geographically restricted. We found evidence for the presence of the hms1 incompatibility allele in only two M. guttatus populations that exist within a few kilometers of each other. The restricted distribution of the hms1 incompatibility allele might currently limit the potential for the hms1–hms2 incompatibility to act as a species barrier between sympatric populations of M. guttatus and M. nasutus. Extensive sampling within a single M. guttatus population revealed that the hms1 locus is polymorphic and that the incompatibility allele appears to segregate at intermediate frequency, a pattern that is consistent with either genetic drift or natural selection.