A recent model has shown that, during range expansion of one species in a territory already occupied by a related species, introgression should take place preferentially from the resident species towards the invading species and genome components experiencing low rates of gene flow should introgress more readily than those experiencing high rates of gene flow. Here, we use molecular markers from two organelle genomes with contrasted rates of gene flow to test these predictions by examining genetic exchanges between two morphologically distinct spruce Picea species growing in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. The haplotypes from both mitochondrial (mt) DNA and chloroplast (cp) DNA cluster into two distinct lineages that differentiate allopatric populations of the two species. By contrast, in sympatry, the species share the same haplotypes, suggesting interspecific genetic exchanges. As predicted by the neutral model, all sympatric populations of the expanding species had received their maternally inherited mtDNA from the resident species, whereas for paternally inherited cpDNA introgression is more limited and not strictly unidirectional. Our results underscore cryptic introgressions of organelle DNAs in plants and the importance of considering rates of gene flow and range shifts to predict direction and extent of interspecific genetic exchanges.
© 2011 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2011 New Phytologist Trust.