Reproductive barrier formation between newly derived hybrid taxa and their parental species represents a major evolutionary hurdle. Here, I examine the development of a sterility barrier during hybrid speciation by examining the fertility of progeny from all combinations of crosses involving three experimentally synthesized sunflower hybrid lineages, their natural hybrid counterpart, Helianthus anomalus, and their parents, H. annuus and H. petiolaris. Crosses between the parental species and H. anomalus generated almost completely sterile offspring (pollen viability < 5%; seed set < 1%). A fairly strong sterility barrier also has developed between three hybrid lineages and both parental species (pollen viability 11.1–41.6%; seed set 0.84–20.1%). In contrast, the three hybrid lineages are almost fully interfertile (pollen viabilities 83.1–88.6%; seed set 72.1–75.3%), as predicted by molecular mapping studies that indicate they have converged on a similar set of gene combinations and chromosomal rearrangements. A modest decline in compability is observed in crosses between the three hybrid lineages and H. anomalus (pollen viabilities 64.1–70.7%; seed set 37–43%), a result that agrees well with prior data demonstrating significant congruence between the genomes of the natural and experimental hybrid lineages. These observations not only indicate that reproductive isolation can arise as a by-product of fertility selection in hybrid populations, but also testify to the repeatability of this mode of speciation.
Corresponding Editor: O. Savolainen