Original Paper


, Volume 129, Issue 2, pp 149-165

First online:

Hybridization and the colonization of novel habitats by annual sunflowers

  • Loren H. RiesebergAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Indiana University Email author 
  • , Seung-Chul KimAffiliated withDepartment of Botany and Plant Science, University of California
  • , Rebecca A. RandellAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Indiana University
  • , Kenneth D. WhitneyAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Indiana University
  • , Briana L. GrossAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Indiana University
  • , Christian LexerAffiliated withJodrell Laboratory, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
  • , Keith ClayAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Indiana University

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Although invasive plant species often have a hybrid ancestry, unambiguous evidence that hybridization has stimulated the evolution of invasive behaviors has been difficult to come by. Here, we briefly review how hybridization might contribute to the colonization of novel habitats, range expansions, and invasiveness and then describe work on hybrid sunflowers that forges a direct link between hybridization and ecological divergence. We first discuss the invasion of Texas by the common sunflower and show that the introgression of chromosomal segments from a locally adapted species may have facilitated range expansion. We then present evidence that the colonization of sand dune, desert floor, and salt marsh habitats by three hybrid sunflower species was made possible by selection on extreme or “transgressive” phenotypes generated by hybridization. This body of work corroborates earlier claims regarding the role of hybridization in adaptive evolution and provides an experimental and conceptual framework for ongoing studies in this area.


Colonization Helianthus Hybridization Introgression Invasiveness QTLs Range expansion