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Islands in the sky: How isolated are mountain top plant populations?
Date:1/21/2011

they haven't been used in large-scale restoration projects because key research needed to guide restoration of these species hasn't been available. Without an understanding of the population genetic structure of natural populations it is very difficult to determine what seed sources should be used where to ensure maximum success of a restoration."

The authors selected three Penstemon species with similar dispersal modes, a key element to the study design. For all three, seeds are dispersed by gravity and are not likely to be moved very farthus, any long-distance movement of genes (or gene flow) should primarily be due to movement of pollen. This critical aspect is where the species differ: Penstemon deustus and P. pachyphyllus are both pollinated primarily by bees, while P. rostriflorus is pollinated primarily by hummingbirds.

For each species the authors were able to sample individuals from 6 to 8 populations on 4 to 6 mountain ranges. By extracting genomic DNA from leaf tissues and using molecular analytical tools they identified up to 8 polymorphic microsatellite loci and used these data to determine patterns of gene diversity both within each population on a mountain top and between more distant populations found on other mountain tops. They then pieced this information together to assess the degree of genetic relatedness among the different populations.

The authors found interesting differences between the bee- and bird-pollinated Penstemon. Although all three species had significant genetic differentiation among the populations, the two bee-pollinated species were found to have genetic clusters that were distinct for each mountain range, with little or no mixing between mountain ranges; the bird-pollinated species had far less genetic structure across all the ranges sampled. Thus, hummingbirds seem to be more effective at crossing large distances and pollinating flowers from distinct mounta
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Contact: Richard Hund
rhund@botany.org
314-577-9557
American Journal of Botany
Source:Eurekalert  

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