Fuzzy genetic borders
In botany the genetic boundaries between species are much more diffuse than in the case of animals. Another of Martínez-Ortega’s current lines of research consists in studying the role that hybridization plays in the evolution of angiosperms. “We work with Quercus, specifically with Pyrenean oak (Q. pirenaica) and gall oak (Q. faginea), which hybridize easily with each other. We are developing morphological and genetic studies to find out what those characteristics of typical and hybrid specimens are like.”, He tells us. “In this case, the hybrids between the two species have the same number of chromosomes as the parental ones, and we have the idea that perhaps the hybrids are not positively selected, because in general there are forest masses that are quite pure. But it could be that – and that has yet to be proven-, under certain intermediate climatic conditions, hybrids may have some kind of advantage. We believe that the role of hybrids would be precisely to provide flexibility to genomes and facilitate the adaptation of species to new conditions, such as those derived from climate change ”.
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