Ecology and evolution of southeastern United States yucca species
Rentsch, Jeremy Daniel
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The genus Yucca contains approximately 40 species with most diversity found in Mexico and the southwestern United States. The southeastern United States is home to three well-described yucca species: the fleshy-fruited Y. aloifolia, the capsular-fruited Y. filamentosa, and Y. gloriosa – with a fruit type that does not follow convention. Yucca species are perhaps best known for the obligate pollination mutualism they share with moths in the genera Tegeticula and Parategeticula. Such interactions are thought to be highly specialized, restricting gene flow between species and even make evolutionary reversions to generalist life history characterizes impossible. Here, we show that Y. gloriosa is an intersectional, homploid, hybrid species produced by the crossing of Y. aloifolia and Y. filamentosa. We go on to show that Y. aloifolia has escaped from the obligate pollination mutualism and is being pollinated diurnally by the introduced European honey bee, Apis mellifera – an observation that directly refutes the idea that highly specialized species interactions lead to evolutionary dead ends. Finally, we utilized high throughput sequencing a biotinylated probe set in order to sequence many genes of interest in Y. aloifolia, laying the ground work to better understand its introduction history and pattern of pollinator association.