Hybridization and Evolution in the Genus Pinus

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå Universitet

Abstract: Gene flow and hybridization are pervasive in nature, and can lead to different evolutionary outcomes. They can either accelerate divergence and promote speciation or reverse differentiation. The process of divergence and speciation are strongly influenced by both neutral and selective forces. Disentangling the interplay between these processes in natural systems is important for understanding the general importance of interspecific gene flow in generating novel biodiversity in plants. This thesis first examines the importance of introgressive hybridization in the evolution of the genus Pinus as a whole, and then focusing on specific pine species, investigates the role of geographical, environmental and demographical factors in driving divergence and adaptation.By examining the distribution of cytoplasmic DNA variation across the wide biogeographic range of the genus Pinus, I revealed historical introgression and mtDNA capture events in several groups of different pine species. This finding suggests that introgressive hybridization was common during past species’ range contractions and expansions and thus has played an important role in the evolution of the genus. To understand the cause and process of hybrid speciation, I focused on the significant case of hybrid speciation in Pinus densata. I established the hybridization, colonization and differentiation processes that defined the origin of this species. I found P. densata originated via multiple hybridization events in the late Miocene. The direction and intensity of introgression with two parental species varied among geographic regions of this species. During the colonization on Tibetan Plateau from the ancestral hybrid zone, consecutive bottlenecks and surfing of rare alleles caused a significant reduction in genetic diversity and strong population differentiation. Divergence within P. densata started from the late Pliocene onwards, induced by regional topographic changes and Pleistocene glaciations. To address the role of neutral and selective forces on genetic divergence, I examined the association of ecological and geographical distance with genetic distance in Pinus yunnanensis populations. I found both neutral and selective forces have contributed to population structure and differentiation in P. yunnanensis, but their relative contributions varied across the complex landscape. Finally, I evaluated genetic diversity in the Vietnamese endemic Pinus krempfii. I found extremely low genetic diversity in this species, which is explained by a small ancestral population, short-term population expansion and recent population decline and habitat fragmentation.These findings highlight the role of hybridization in generating novel genetic diversity and the different mechanisms driving divergence and adaptation in the genus Pinus.