Morphological and genetic perspectives of hybridization in two contact zones of closely related species of Petunia (Solanaceae) in southern Brazil

ABSTRACT Interspecific hybridization has several consequences for parental species, from blurring species limits to the emergence of new taxa. Petunia axillaris and P. exserta occur in sympatry in southernmost Brazil and naturally hybridize despite their different pollination syndromes and habitat requirements. We employed genetic and morphological analyses to characterize two contact zones between the species with the aim of determining the effect of interspecific hybridization. Microsatellite loci and a morphometric evaluation of the corolla shape were used to classify individuals based on their origin as pure parental or hybrids. Corolla color was used to classify individuals a priori (white, red or intermediate, for P. axillaris, P. exserta or hybrid, respectively). Corolla color was found to be a good indicator of the genetic component of each species and their hybrid, while the shape of the corolla did not always correspond to genetic origin. Hybridization increased the variability, and introgression occurred in both directions in this system.