Separating Effects of Gene Flow and Natural Selection along an Environmental Gradient

Sergei Volis, Yong Hong Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Genetic differentiation along environmental clines is often observed as a result of interplay between gene flow and natural selection. In order to understand the relative roles of these processes in shaping this differentiation, we designed a study in which we used two approaches that have not previously been combined, the QST-FST comparison and crossbreeding. We examined (1) interpopulation phenotypic and genetic (AFLP) variation, and (2) performance of interpopulation hybrids in a common annual Senecio glaucus. Fitness of interpopulation hybrids (F1 and F2) was tested under simulated population natural conditions in terms of aridity and analyzed for a relationship with (1) spatial distance and (2) environmental differences (amount of annual rainfall). While phenotypic variation corresponded to the clinal changes in aridity along population locations, viz. narrower and longer leaves, longer leaf outgrowths and advanced flowering in more arid environments, the FST < 0.1 calculated from AFLP data suggested intensive interpopulation gene flow, with little if any contribution of genetic drift. Performance of hybrids in simulated natural environments revealed heterosis in F1, but a hybrid breakdown in F2 generation. These effects were related to both the spatial distance between hybrid parents and their population rainfall differences. The detected clinal phenotypic variation and outbreeding depression in F2 strongly support presence of aridity-induced clinal natural selection, which is matched by the observed QST > FST. From this we conclude that QST-FST comparison can detect effect of diversifying selection when patterns of phenotypic variation across sampled locations can be reliably predicted from environmental variation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-199
Number of pages13
JournalEvolutionary Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2010


  • Gene flow
  • Heterosis
  • Local adaptation
  • Outbreeding depression
  • Population differentiation
  • Q-F comparison

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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