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Department of Biosciences

News and Events

Hybridisation and detection of a hybrid zone between mesic and desert ragworts (Senecio) across an aridity gradient in the eastern Mediterranean

(31 July 2018)

Two daisy species hybridize where their ranges meet near to the Dead Sea.

Hybridisation and detection of a hybrid zone between mesic and desert ragworts (Senecio) across an aridity gradient in the eastern Mediterranean By: Richard J. Abbott, Hans P. Comes, Zoë A. Goodwin and Adrian C. Brennan

Applying new analysis techniques to a previously published study of plant genetic diversity has revealed new insights into patterns and drivers of hybridization between two plant species that meet in the Eastern Mediterrenean region. In research just published by group including Durham University researcher, Dr Adrian Brennan, a new hybrid zone has been identified for the first time in the Jordan Rift Valley near the Dead Sea where the disribution ranges of two ragwort (daisy) species meet. Hybrid zones represent fascinating natural experiments to study the fundamental evolutionary process of speciation because they are maintained by a dynamic balance between the arrival of new individuals from either side of the zone and selection against their hybrids within the zone. In this new hybrid zone, it was found that one species was more tolerant of arid conditions than the other but the main force maintaining a stable zone of hybridization in this area appeared to be selection against hybrids. Less hybridization occurs in other areas where the two species meet, such as along the coast of Israel, suggesting that much remains to be learned from this complex region of species contact. The research has just been published in the journal Plant Ecology and Diversity.