This week we welcome Brian Husband.
Reproductive and genetic interactions between domesticated and native apple (Malus): a case study of agricultural effects on biological diversity
Agricultural intensification can influence biological diversity multiple ways, from decline of native species via habitat loss and degradation to formation of novel diversity by enhancing reproductive interactions between otherwise isolated congeners. My lab has been studying the potential for such interactions across the Ontario landscape through an analysis of the reproductive biology and population genetics of Malus coronaria, a native crabapple, and Malus domestica, the introduced and commercially grown apple species. Domestic apple is mostly diploid and obligately outcrossing whereas M. coronaria is tetraploid and has a complex breeding system with asexually and sexually-derived offspring. We assess the potential for reproductive interactions and hybrid fertilization between these species via naturalized populations of domestic apple which have established in open or marginal habitats. The research has led us to better understand the origins of feral apple populations themselves and their role as conduits for the movement of genes across species boundaries.