Evidence for a switch in the reproductive biology of Rubus alceifolius (Rosaceae) towards apomixis, between its native range and its area of introduction.
We compared the reproductive system of R. alceifolius in its native range in Southeast Asia, in Madagascar, where the plant was introduced apparently some centuries ago, and in La Réunion, an Indian Ocean island onto which R. alceifolius was introduced (from Madagascan source populations) around 1850. While tetraploidy makes it impossible to analyse variation in R. alceifolius using classical methods of population genetics, both the patterns of genetic diversity (as revealed by AFLP (amplified fragment length polymorphism markers)) and differences between half-sib progeny and their maternal parents (revealed by microsatellite markers) showed that in the plant's native range in southeast Asia, seeds are produced sexually. In contrast, in Madagascar, sexual reproduction alone cannot account for the genetic patterns observed with microsatellite markers. Over 85% of the half-sib progeny resulting from open pollination gave multilocus genotypes identical to those of their respective maternal parents, despite the fact that the latter had alleles that were rare in the population. The other progeny differed in having an allele with one motif more or less than that of the maternal parent. Seeds thus appear to be produced mostly or exclusively by apomixis in Madagascar. We present findings suggesting that Madagascan populations result from hybridization of introduced R. alceifolius and native populations of R. roridus, a closely related species of Rubus subgenus Malachobatus, and suggest that apomixis was a consequence of this hybridization. In Reunionese populations of R. alceifolius (derived from Madagascan populations), seeds obtained in controlled pollination experiments were all genetically identical to maternal parents. While genetic variation (microsatellite markers) in Reunionese populations was low, it was sufficient to allow us to demonstrate that seeds could not have resulted from fertilization by the pollen donors chosen for controlled pollinations, or from autogamy, and were produced exclusively by apomixis.