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Microsatellite diversity and genetic structure of fragmented populations of the rare, fire-dependent shrub Grevillea macleayana.


Recent habitat loss and fragmentation superimposed upon ancient patterns of population subdivision are likely to have produced low levels of neutral genetic diversity and marked genetic structure in many plant species. The genetic effects of habitat fragmentation may be most pronounced in species that form small populations, are fully self-compatible and have limited seed dispersal. However, long-lived seed banks, mobile pollinators and long adult lifespans may prevent or delay the accumulation of genetic effects. We studied a rare Australian shrub species, Grevillea macleayana (Proteaceae), that occurs in many small populations, is self-compatible and has restricted seed dispersal. However, it has a relatively long adult lifespan (c. 30 years), a long-lived seed bank that germinates after fire and is pollinated by birds that are numerous and highly mobile. These latter characteristics raise the possibility that populations in the past may have been effectively large and genetically homogeneous. Using six microsatellites, we found that G. macleayana may have relatively low within-population diversity (3.2-4.2 alleles/locus; Hexp = 0.420-0.530), significant population differentiation and moderate genetic structure (FST = 0.218) showing isolation by distance, consistent with historically low gene flow. The frequency distribution of allele sizes suggest that this geographical differentiation is being driven by mutation. We found a lack mutation-drift equilibrium in some populations that is indicative of population bottlenecks. Combined with evidence for large spatiotemporal variation of selfing rates, this suggests that fluctuating population sizes characterize the demography in this species, promoting genetic drift. We argue that natural patterns of pollen and seed dispersal, coupled with the patchy, fire-shaped distribution, may have restricted long-distance gene flow in the past.


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  • Authors+Show Affiliations


    Institute for Conservation Biology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia.

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    Molecular ecology 11:6 2002 Jun pg 967-77


    Genes, Plant
    Genetic Drift
    Genetic Variation
    Genetics, Population
    Microsatellite Repeats
    Sequence Analysis, DNA

    Pub Type(s)

    Journal Article
    Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't



    PubMed ID