Tests of Pre- and Post-Pollination Barriers to Hybridization Between Sympatric Species of Ipomopsis (polemoniaceae)

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American Journal of Botany



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The Ipomopsis aggregata species complex (Polemoniaceae) includes species pairs that hybridize readily in nature as well as pairs that meet along contact zones with no apparent hybridization. Artificial hybrids can be made between I. aggregata and I. arizonica, yet morphological intermediates between these two species have not been observed in natural populations. This apparent lack of hybridization is perplexing given that plants of the two species often grow within a few metres of each other and both species have red flowers visited by the same species of hummingbirds. We used trained hummingbirds to examine pollen transfer within and between species. We also hand-pollinated flowers to examine paternal success of heterospecific and conspecific pollen, testing paternity with electrophoretic examination of seeds. Hummingbirds were not simply better at transferring pollen within than between species. Instead, I. arizonica was a better pollen donor so that considerable pollen transfer was observed from I. arizonica to I. aggregata, but very little in the opposite direction. Conversely, once pollen arrived at stigmas, I. arizonica pollen performed very poorly on I. aggregata pistils. However, pollen from I. aggregata could, in some cases, sire seeds on I. arizonica. We hypothesize that hybrids are scarce in nature, in part, because of asymmetric barriers to reproduction: little pollen transfer in one direction and poor pollen performance in the other.

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