Hybridization is recognized as an important process in plant evolution, and this may be particularly true for island plants where several biotic and abiotic factors facilitate interspecific hybridization. Although rarely done, experimental studies could provide insights into the potential of natural hybridization to generate diversity when species come into contact in the dynamic island setting. The potential of hybridization to generate morphological variation was analysed within and among 12 families (inbred lines) of an F4 hybrid generation between two species of Tolpis endemic to the Canary Islands. Combinations of characters not seen in the parents were present in hybrids. Several floral and vegetative characters were transgressive relative to their parents. Morphometric studies of floral, vegetative and fruit characters revealed that several F4 families were phenotypically distinct from other families, and from their parents. The study demonstrates that morphologically distinct pollen-fertile lines, potentially worthy of taxonomic recognition if occurring in nature, can be generated in four generations. The ability of the hybrid lines to set self-seed would reduce gene flow among the lines, and among the hybrids and their parental species. Selfing would also facilitate the fixation of characters within each of the lines. Overall, the results show the considerable potential of hybridization for generating diversity and distinct phenotypes in island lineages.
Kerbs B, Ressler J, Kelly JK, Mort ME, Santos-Guerra A, Gibson MJS, Caujapé-Castells J, Crawford DJ. 2017. The potential role
of hybridization in diversification and speciation in an insular plant lineage: insights from synthetic interspecific hybrids.
AoB PLANTS 9: plx043; doi: 10.1093/aobpla/plx043