Publisher: Canadian Science Publishing, NRC Research Press
The dioecious weed Silene latifolia Poiret is thought to have spread northwards through Europe from separate southern source populations and shows a pronounced east–west pattern of differentiation in seed morphology. We used crossing experiments to investigate whether patterns of interfertility in S. latifolia are consistent with a scenario of ongoing speciation (reflected by outbreeding depression in crosses between the seed races), a scenario involving local inbreeding (reflected by heterosis in interpopulations crosses), or a combination of both scenarios. The experiments involved three western and three eastern populations, which were crossed reciprocally in all possible inter- and intra-population combinations. Inter-race cross-progenies did not have lower fitness than those from intra-racial crosses, and the results are not consistent with a scenario of incipient speciation. A pattern of overall heterosis was found in three variables, indicating the expression of inbreeding depression in progeny from intrapopulation crosses. For two fitness variables, negative relationships between interpopulation distance and heterosis, together with signs of outbreeding depression in the longest-distance crosses, suggest that there may be significant levels of genetic differentiation between geographically distant populations. The sex ratio was female-biased in most progenies, especially in those from the longest-distance crosses.