Determinants of genetic structure in a nonequilibrium metapopulation of the plant Silene latifolia

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Abstract

Population genetic differentiation will be influenced by the demographic history of populations, opportunities for migration among neighboring demes and founder effects associated with repeated extinction and recolonization. In natural populations, these factors are expected to interact with each other and their magnitudes will vary depending on the spatial distribution and age structure of local demes. Although each of these effects has been individually identified as important in structuring genetic variance, their relative magnitude is seldom estimated in nature. We conducted a population genetic analysis in a metapopulation of the angiosperm, Silene latifolia, from which we had more than 20 years of data on the spatial distribution, demographic history, and extinction and colonization of demes. We used hierarchical Bayesian methods to disentangle which features of the populations contributed to among population variation in allele frequencies, including the magnitude and direction of their effects. We show that population age, long-term size and degree of connectivity all combine to affect the distribution of genetic variance; small, recently-founded, isolated populations contributed most to increase FSTin the metapopulation. However, the effects of population size and population age are best understood as being modulated through the effects of connectivity to other extant populations, i.e. FSTdiminishes as populations age, but at a rate that depends how isolated the population is. These spatial and temporal correlates of population structure give insight into how migration, founder effect and within-deme genetic drift have combined to enhance and restrict genetic divergence in a natural metapopulation.

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Fields, P. D., & Taylor, D. R. (2014). Determinants of genetic structure in a nonequilibrium metapopulation of the plant Silene latifolia. PLoS ONE, 9(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0104575

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