Original Paper

Tree Genetics & Genomes

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 669-681

Population genetic structure of Picea engelmannii, P. glauca and their previously unrecognized hybrids in the central Rocky Mountains

  • Monia S. H. HaselhorstAffiliated withDepartment of Botany & Program in Ecology, University of Wyoming Email author 
  • , C. Alex BuerkleAffiliated withDepartment of Botany & Program in Ecology, University of Wyoming

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Areas of geographic overlap between potentially hybridizing species provide the opportunity to study interspecific gene flow and reproductive barriers. Here we identified hybrids between Picea engelmannii and P. glauca by their genetic composition at 17 microsatellite markers, and determined the broad-scale geographic distribution of hybrids in the central Rocky Mountains of North America, a geographic region where hybrids and isolation between species had not previously been studied. Parameter estimates from admixture models revealed considerable variation in ancestry within and among collection sites, suggesting that within this area of geographic overlap, the interaction of the two species varies extensively. The results document a previously unrecognized patchy distribution of hybrids between P. engelmannii and P. glauca, including locations where hybrids were not known or expected to exist. Further, the ancestry of many hybrids was consistent with multiple generations of hybridization, with probable directional backcrossing to P. engelmannii, suggesting a relatively porous species boundary. The identification and characterization of hybridization between these spruce in this region raises the question of what factors maintain barriers to gene flow in these long-lived forest trees. The current research lays the groundwork for future study of the ecological and evolutionary contexts of their hybridization, as well as of differential introgression and permeability of species boundaries.


Admixture Geographic overlap Hybridization Spruce Picea