Life history traits and phenotypic selection among sunflower crop–wild hybrids and their wild counterpart: implications for crop allele introgression

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Hybridization produces strong evolutionary forces. In hybrid zones, selection can differentially occur on traits and selection intensities may differ among hybrid generations. Understanding these dynamics in crop–wild hybrid zones can clarify crop-like traits likely to introgress into wild populations and the particular hybrid generations through which introgression proceeds. In a field experiment with four crop–wild hybrid Helianthus annuus (sunflower) cross types, we measured growth and life history traits and performed phenotypic selection analysis on early season traits to ascertain the likelihood, and routes, of crop allele introgression into wild sunflower populations. All cross types overwintered, emerged in the spring, and survived until flowering, indicating no early life history barriers to crop allele introgression. While selection indirectly favored earlier seedling emergence and taller early season seedlings, direct selection only favored greater early season leaf length. Further, there was cross type variation in the intensity of selection operating on leaf length. Thus, introgression of multiple early season crop-like traits, due to direct selection for greater early season leaf length, should not be impeded by any cross type and may proceed at different rates among generations. In sum, alleles underlying early season sunflower crop-like traits are likely to introgress into wild sunflower populations.

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