Nature, Vol.584, No.7822, 602-+, 2020
Massive haplotypes underlie ecotypic differentiation in sunflowers
Species often include multiple ecotypes that are adapted to different environments(1). However, it is unclear how ecotypes arise and how their distinctive combinations of adaptive alleles are maintained despite hybridization with non-adapted populations(2-4). Here, by resequencing 1,506 wild sunflowers from 3 species (Helianthus annuus, Helianthus petiolaris and Helianthus argophyllus), we identify 37 large (1-100 Mbp in size), non-recombining haplotype blocks that are associated with numerous ecologically relevant traits, as well as soil and climate characteristics. Limited recombination in these haplotype blocks keeps adaptive alleles together, and these regions differentiate sunflower ecotypes. For example, haplotype blocks control a 77-day difference in flowering between ecotypes of the silverleaf sunflower H. argophyllus (probably through deletion of a homologue of FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT)), and are associated with seed size, flowering time and soil fertility in dune-adapted sunflowers. These haplotypes are highly divergent, frequently associated with structural variants and often appear to represent introgressions from other-possibly now-extinct-congeners. These results highlight a pervasive role of structural variation in ecotypic adaptation.