Identification of intersectional Corymbia hybrids based on seedling morphology improves with parental divergence

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Abasolo, M, Lee, DJ & Shepherd, M 2012, 'Identification of intersectional Corymbia hybrids based on seedling morphology improves with parental divergence', Forest Ecology and Management, vol. 279, pp. 189-202.

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Differences in morphology have provided a basis for detecting natural interspecific hybridisation in forest trees for decades but have come to prominence again more recently as a means for directly measuring gene flow from planted forests. Here we examined the utility of seedling morphology for hybrid discrimination in three hybrid groups relevant to the monitoring of gene flow from plantings of Corymbia (L.D. Pryor & L.A.S. Johnson ex Brooker) taxa in subtropical Australia. Thirty leaf and stem characters were assessed on 907 8-month old seedlings from four parental and six hybrid taxa grown in a common garden. Outbred F1 hybrids between spotted gums (Corymbia citriodora subspecies variegata, C. citriodora subspecies citriodora and Corymbia henryi) tended to more closely resemble their maternal Corymbia torelliana parent and the most discriminating characters were the ratio of blade length to maximum perpendicular width, the presence or absence of a lignotuber, and specific leaf weight. Assignment of individuals into genealogical classes based on a multivariate model limited to a set of the more discriminating and independent characters was highest in the hybrid group, where parental taxa were genetically most divergent. Overall power to resolve among outbred F1 hybrids from both parental taxa was low to moderate, but this may not be a limitation to its likely major application of identifying hybrids in seedlots from native spotted gum stands. Advanced generation hybrids (outbred F2 and outbred backcrosses) were more difficult to resolve reliably due to the higher variances of hybrid taxa and the tendency of backcrosses to resemble their recurrent parents. Visual assessments of seedling morphology may provide a filter allowing screening of the large numbers needed to monitor gene flow, but will need to be combined with other hybrid detection methods to ensure hybrids are detected.

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