News FocusJoint Congress on Evolutionary Biology

Texas Wildflower's Red Keeps It a Species

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Science  27 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6093, pp. 408-409
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6093.408-b

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A Texas wildflower, the annual phlox (Phlox drummondii), has light bluish purple blooms in the central part of the state but takes on a dramatically different hue in eastern Texas. There, it comes into contact with the blue-flowering pointed phlox (Phlox cuspidata), and the flowers of the annual phlox have evolved to become deep red. An evolutionary biologist has unearthed evidence that this red form persists because it helps keep hybrids from forming between the annual and pointed phlox, and at the meeting she reported that the eastern annual phlox is not as well adapted to its pollinators as the original variety. Colleagues say the results illustrate how two species stay apart through a process called reinforcement.