Hybridization may threaten the conservation status of rare species through genetic assimilation and may confound the ability to distinguish among taxa. We studied these issues in an endangered shrub, Purshia subintegra (Rosaceae), known from four populations growing on limestone outcrops in central Arizona (USA). Using amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLP) and the Bayesian clustering algorithm implemented in STRUCTURE, we identified three distinct genetic lineages among Arizona Purshia subintegra and P. stansburiana. An initial split divided San Carlos Basin P. subintegra (considered P. pinkavae by Schaack) from northern P. stansburiana populations (FST = 0.394). A subsequent split separated northern P. stansburiana from two P. subintegra populations at Horseshoe Lake and Burro Creek (FST = 0.207), which comprised a nearly perfect admixture of the two lineages identified in the initial analysis. In the Verde River Valley P. subintegra is sympatric with P. stansburiana and exhibited an average 27% P. stansburiana genes for 5 of 6 stands analyzed, indicating ongoing hybridization and backcrossing with P. subintegra. Individuals carrying >90% P. subintegra markers are identifiable 68% of the time based on morphology, with leaf lobing, leaf size, and leaf length acting as the most reliable indicators of taxonomic status. However, the genetic and morphological distance correlation among individuals was low (r = 0.17, P = 0.0002), indicating that morphology cannot always accurately predict genetic admixture or taxonomy. Overall, our study confirmed the genetic distinctiveness of the San Carlos Basin population, an ancient natural hybrid origin of P. subintegra, and the presence of a hybrid swarm in the Verde Valley, whose conservation value may lie in its heightened genetic diversity. ?? 2007 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Additional publication details
Disentangling the role of hybridization in the evolution of the endangered Arizona cliffrose (Purshia subintegra; Rosaceae): A molecular and morphological analysis