Chromosome doubling plays an important role in generating new species of flowering plants. However, reproductive incompatibilities between newly formed tetraploid plants and their diploid progenitors are expected to create a significant barrier to the persistence and establishment of neopolyploid populations. Ecological differentiation can reduce this barrier via prezygotic isolation arising from spatial separation. Alternatively, superior viability or fecundity of neotetraploid plants might compensate for the reproductive cost of incompatible pollen from diploid neighbors. The performance of plants of both cytotypes can be assessed in their respective habitats through reciprocal transplants, although such experiments have not been used previously in the study of tetraploid speciation. We used a series of seed and seedling transplant experiments to assess ecological differentiation and competitive ability during early establishment phases for tetraploid and diploid forms of the snow buttercup (Ranunculus adoneus). At two sites, seeds from diploids and tetraploids had similar germination probabilities. Tetraploid snow buttercup seedlings had a significant growth advantage in a controlled environment chamber experiment. However, in the field diploid and tetraploid buttercup seedlings did not differ consistently in survival or growth, nor did the two cytotypes show reciprocal advantages in performance, as expected if ecological differentiation has occurred. At the seed and seedling stages, neither niche differentiation nor tetraploid competitive superiority appears sufficient to explain neotetraploid success in the presence of their diploid progenitors.
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Vol. 59 • No. 9