Sporadic Genetic Connectivity among Small Insular Populations of the Rare Geoendemic Plant Caulanthus amplexicaulis var. barbarae (Santa Barbara Jewelflower)
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Globally, a small number of plants have adapted to terrestrial outcroppings of serpentine geology, which are characterized by soils with low levels of essential mineral nutrients (N, P, K, Ca, Mo) and toxic levels of heavy metals (Ni, Cr, Co). Paradoxically, many of these plants are restricted to this harsh environment. Caulanthus ampexlicaulis var. barbarae (Brassicaceae) is a rare annual plant that is strictly endemic to a small set of isolated serpentine outcrops in the coastal mountains of central California. The goals of the work presented here were to 1) determine the patterns of genetic connectivity among all known populations of C. ampexlicaulis var. barbarae, and 2) estimate contemporary effective population sizes (Ne), to inform ongoing genomic analyses of the evolutionary history of this taxon, and to provide a foundation upon which to model its future evolutionary potential and long-term viability in a changing environment. Eleven populations of this taxon were sampled, and population-genetic parameters were estimated using 11 nuclear microsatellite markers. Contemporary effective population sizes were estimated using multiple methods and found to be strikingly small (typically Ne < 10). Further, our data showed that a substantial component of genetic connectivity of this taxon is not at equilibrium, and instead showed sporadic gene flow. Several lines of evidence indicate that gene flow between isolated populations is maintained through long-distance seed dispersal (e.g., >1 km), possibly via zoochory.
author list (cited authors)
Burrell, A. M., Goddard, J., Greer, P. J., Williams, R. J., & Pepper, A. E.