We examined natural hybridization between two morphologically and ecologically divergent species on Yakushima Island-the light-purple flowered Rhododendron eriocarpum native to seaside habitats and the red flowered R. indicum native to riverside habitats. By investigation of morphological traits and amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLP) we found that hybrid individuals morphologically and genetically intermediate between the two species grow mainly in the seaside areas of the island. The degree of morphological and genetic variation was different among the seaside hybrid populations. Although most pollinator species were exclusive to one of the two flower color groups, the halictine bees of Lasioglossum were observed in both the color types. The crucial interspecific incompatibility after pollination has not been previously described. Geographic distance between the populations is likely to be an important primary factor in bringing about natural hybridization and determining the degree of introgression between R. eriocarpum and R. indicum. The fact that hybrids occur mostly in the seaside area on Yakushima Island indicates that asymmetrical introgression occurs from R. indicum to R. eriocarpum. Alternatively, strong habitat-mediated selection from recurrent floods may prevent the hybrids from colonizing riverside habitats.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes