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The ecology and genetics of adaptation and speciation in dune sunflowers Ostevik, Katherine Lee


We can learn about the factors that promote and constrain speciation by comparing multiple instances of the evolution of reproductive isolation. It is particularly useful to compare systems with similar environmental transitions because natural selection is likely responsible for any evolutionary patterns that are consistently associated with ecological variation. In this thesis, I examine two cases of putatively similar recent or incipient ecological speciation in the sunflower genus Helianthus. In each case, the divergence observed between geographically adjacent populations is associated with adaptation to sand dunes. In my first study, I comprehensively test for reproductive isolation between dune and non-dune ecotypes of H. petiolaris. Despite their recent divergence, I find that multiple reproductive barriers separate them, including post-pollination assortative mating in the form of pollen competition. In addition, I find that a striking difference in seed size between the ecotypes is a consequence of divergent natural selection, and that it leads to strong and extrinsic reproductive isolation via selection against immigrants and hybrids. I then broaden my study to include the dune endemic, H. neglectus, which is sister to typical H. petiolaris. I look for chromosomal rearrangements between H. neglectus and H. petiolaris, and find almost as many large translocations between them as between more distantly related sunflowers. Finally, I discover that larger seeds are associated with dune environments in both systems and that the genetic basis of that phenotypic evolution is partiality repeated. Taken together, these results suggest that dune adaption within H. petiolaris and between H. petiolaris and H. neglectus has similar consequences. However, it remains to be seen whether assortative mating and chromosomal evolution are unique to the evolution of dune H. petiolaris and H. neglectus, respectively. Ultimately, understanding the similarities and differences between these systems will help answer the question - how predictable is speciation?

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