Background and Aims
In clonal plants producing vegetative offspring, performance at the genet level as well as at the ramet level should be investigated in order to understand the entire picture of the population dynamics and the life history characteristics. In this study, demography, including reproduction and survival, the growth patterns and the spatial distributions of ramets within genets of the clonal herb Convallaria keiskei were explored.
Vegetative growth, flowering and survival of shoots whose genets were identified using microsatellite markers were monitored in four study plots for 3 years (2003–2005). The size structures of ramets in genets and their temporal shifts were then analysed. Their spatial distributions were also examined.
During the census, 274 and 149 ramets were mapped in two 1 × 2 m plots, and 83 and 94 ramets in two 2 × 2 m quadrats. Thirty-eight genotypes were identified from 580 samples. Each plot included 5–18 genets, and most ramets belonged to the predominant genet(s) in each plot. Shoots foliated yearly for several years, but flowering ramets did not have an inflorescence the next year. A considerable number of new clonal offspring persistently appeared, forming a bell-shaped curve of the size structure of ramets in each genet. Comparing the structures modelled by the normal distributions suggested variation among ramets belonging to a single genet and variation among genets. Furthermore, spatial analyses revealed clumped and distant distributions of ramet pairs in a genet, in which the distant patterns corresponded to the linearly elongating clonal growth pattern of this species.
Characteristics of ramet performances such as flowering and recruitment of clonal offspring, in addition to growth, played a large part in the regulation of genet dynamics and distribution, which were different among the studied genets. These might be characteristics particularly relevant to clonal life histories.
Clonal plant; Convallaria keiskei; demography; genet; genetic identification; growth pattern; life history; ramet; spatial distribution
The size-advantage model predicts that hermaphroditic organisms adjust sex allocation depending on their resource status. We investigated the relationship between size and sex allocation in the co-sexual perennial herbs Trillium erectum and Trillium grandiflorum at two sites in southern Ontario, Canada by measuring pollen and ovule production and biomass allocation at flowering and fruiting. In both species, there was a strong relationship between size and gender; larger plants allocated proportionately more biomass to female reproduction and produced fewer pollen grains relative to ovules than smaller plants. Variation in gender was better explained by size than age, although age and size were correlated. While the relationship between size and gender was similar between species, T. erectum allocated proportionately more to female reproduction than T. grandiflorum, independent of size. In the absence of pollen limitation, there was no evidence of secondary adjustment of gender at fruiting. The results are discussed in the context of models predicting size-dependent gender modification in animal-pollinated plants. Evidence about the pollination and seed dispersal biology of Trillium spp. suggests that the relative effects of local mate and resource competition may be important in driving size-dependent sex allocation in these species.
Background and Aims
Rubus chamaemorus (cloudberry) is a herbaceous clonal peatland plant that produces an extensive underground rhizome system with distant ramets. Most of these ramets are non-floral. The main objectives of this study were to determine: (a) if plant growth was source limited in cloudberry; (b) if the non-floral ramets translocated carbon (C) to the fruit; and (c) if there was competition between fruit, leaves and rhizomes for C during fruit development.
Floral and non-floral ramet activities were monitored during the period of flower and fruit development using three approaches: gas exchange measurements, 14CO2 labelling and dry mass accumulation in the different organs. Source and sink activity were manipulated by eliminating leaves or flowers or by reducing rhizome length.
Photosynthetic rates were lower in floral than in deflowered ramets. Autoradiographs and 14C labelling data clearly indicated that fruit is a very strong sink for the floral ramet, whereas non-floral ramets translocated C toward the rhizome but not toward floral ramets. Nevertheless, rhizomes received some C from the floral ramet throughout the fruiting period. Ramets with shorter rhizomes produced smaller leaves and smaller fruits, and defoliated ramets produced very small fruits.
Plant growth appears to be source-limited in cloudberry since a reduction in sink strength did not induce a reduction in photosynthetic activity. Non-floral ramets did not participate directly to fruit development. Developing leaves appear to compete with the developing fruit but the intensity of this competition could vary with the specific timing of the two organs. The rhizome appears to act both as a source but also potentially as a sink during fruit development. Further studies are needed to characterize better the complex role played by the rhizome in fruit C nutrition.
Allocation pattern; 14C labelling; carbon translocation; carbon reserves; cloudberry; defoliation; fruit production; gas exchange; Rubus chamaemorus; source–sink relationship; flowering
Understanding why individuals delay reproduction is a classic problem in evolutionary biology. In plants, the study of reproductive delays is complicated because growth and survival can be size and age dependent, individuals of the same size can grow by different amounts and there is temporal variation in the environment. We extend the recently developed integral projection approach to include size- and age-dependent demography and temporal variation. The technique is then applied to a long-term individually structured dataset for Carlina vulgaris, a monocarpic thistle. The parameterized model has excellent descriptive properties in terms of both the population size and the distributions of sizes within each age class. In Carlina, the probability of flowering depends on both plant size and age. We use the parameterized model to predict this relationship, using the evolutionarily stable strategy approach. Considering each year separately, we show that both the direction and the magnitude of selection on the flowering strategy vary from year to year. Provided the flowering strategy is constrained, so it cannot be a step function, the model accurately predicts the average size at flowering. Elasticity analysis is used to partition the size- and age-specific contributions to the stochastic growth rate, lambda(s). We use lambda(s) to construct fitness landscapes and show how different forms of stochasticity influence its topography. We prove the existence of a unique stochastic growth rate, lambda(s), which is independent of the initial population vector, and show that Tuljapurkar's perturbation analysis for log(lambda(s)) can be used to calculate elasticities.
Background and Aims
Many plants reproduce both clonally and sexually, and the balance between the two modes of reproduction will vary among populations. Clonal reproduction was characterized in three populations of the wild strawberry, Fragaria virginiana, to determine the extent that reproductive mode varied locally between sites. The study sites were fragmented woodlands in Cook County, Illinois, USA.
A total of 95 strawberry ramets were sampled from the three sites via transects. Ramets were mapped and genotyped at five variable microsatellite loci. The variability at these five loci was sufficient to assign plants to clones with high confidence, and the spatial pattern of genets was mapped at each site.
A total of 27 distinct multilocus genotypes were identified. Of these, 18 genotypes were detected only once, with the remaining nine detected in multiple ramets. The largest clone was identified in 16 ramets. No genets were shared between sites, and each site exhibited markedly different clonal and sexual recruitment patterns, ranging from two non-overlapping and widespread genets to 19 distinct genets. Only one flowering genet was female; the remainder were hermaphrodites.
Local population history or fine-scale ecological differences can result in dramatically different reproductive patterns at small spatial scales. This finding may be fairly widespread among clonal plant species, and studies that aim to characterize reproductive modes in species capable of asexual reproduction need to evaluate reproductive modes in multiple populations and sites.
Clonal structure; gynodioecy; Fragaria virginiana; microsatellites; population genetic structure
Global change triggers shifts in forest composition, with warming and aridification being particularly threatening for the populations located at the rear edge of the species distributions. This is the case of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in the Mediterranean Basin where uncertainties in relation to its dynamics under these changing scenarios are still high. We analysed the relative effect of climate on the recruitment patterns of Scots pine and its interactions with local biotic and abiotic variables at different spatial scales. Number of seedlings and saplings was surveyed, and their annual shoot growth measured in 96 plots located across altitudinal gradients in three different regions in the Iberian Peninsula. We found a significant influence of climate on demography and performance of recruits, with a non-linear effect of temperature on the presence of juveniles, and a positive effect of precipitation on their survival. Abundance of juveniles of P. sylvestris that underwent their first summer drought was skewed towards higher altitudes than the altitudinal mean range of the conspecific adults and the optimum elevation for seedlings' emergence. At local level, light availability did not influence juveniles' density, but it enhanced their growth. Biotic interactions were found between juveniles and the herb cover (competition) and between the number of newly emerged seedlings and shrubs (facilitation). Results also highlighted the indirect effect that climate exerts over the local factors, modulating the interactions with the pre-existing vegetation that were more evident at more stressful sites. This multiscale approach improves our understanding of the dynamics of these marginal populations and some management criteria can be inferred to boost their conservation under the current global warming.
Clonal reproduction characterizes a wide range of species including clonal plants in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and clonal microbes such as bacteria and parasitic protozoa, with a key role in human health and ecosystem processes. Clonal organisms present a particular challenge in population genetics because, in addition to the possible existence of replicates of the same genotype in a given sample, some of the hypotheses and concepts underlying classical population genetics models are irreconcilable with clonality. The genetic structure and diversity of clonal populations were examined using a combination of new tools to analyse microsatellite data in the marine angiosperm Posidonia oceanica. These tools were based on examination of the frequency distribution of the genetic distance among ramets, termed the spectrum of genetic diversity (GDS), and of networks built on the basis of pairwise genetic distances among genets. Clonal growth and outcrossing are apparently dominant processes, whereas selfing and somatic mutations appear to be marginal, and the contribution of immigration seems to play a small role in adding genetic diversity to populations. The properties and topology of networks based on genetic distances showed a ‘small-world’ topology, characterized by a high degree of connectivity among nodes, and a substantial amount of substructure, revealing organization in subfamilies of closely related individuals. The combination of GDS and network tools proposed here helped in dissecting the influence of various evolutionary processes in shaping the intra-population genetic structure of the clonal organism investigated; these therefore represent promising analytical tools in population genetics.
genetic networks; small-world networks; genetic diversity; clonal organisms
Background and Aims
The light availability on a temperate, deciduous-forest floor varies greatly, reflecting the seasonal leaf dynamics of the canopy trees. The growth and/or reproductive activity of understorey plants should be influenced by the length of the high-irradiance period from snowmelt to canopy closure. The aim of the present study was to clarify how spring-blooming species regulate the translocation of photosynthetic products to current reproduction and storage organs during a growing season in accordance with the changing light conditions.
Growth pattern, net photosynthetic rate, seed production, and shoot and flower production in the next year of Trillium apetalon were compared between natural and experimentally shaded conditions. Furthermore, translocation of current photosynthetic products within plants was assessed by a labelled carbon-chase experiment.
During the high-irradiance period, plants showed high photosynthetic ability, in which current products were initially used for shoot growth, then reserved in the rhizome. Carbon translocation to developing fruit occurred after canopy closure, but this was very small due to low photosynthetic rates under the darker conditions. The shading treatment in the early season advanced the time of carbon translocation to fruit, but reduced seed production in the current year and flower production of the next year.
Carbon translocation to the storage organ had priority over seed production under high-irradiance conditions. A shortened bright period due to early canopy closure effectively restricts carbon assimilation, which greatly reduces subsequent reproductive output owing to low photosynthetic products for fruit development and small carbon storage for future reproduction. As populations of this species are maintained by seedling recruitment, acceleration of canopy closure timing may influence the maintenance and dynamics of populations.
13C labelling; canopy closure; carbon translocation; deciduous forest; light availability; photosynthesis; spring-bloomer; Trillium apetalon
Background and Aims
Mechanical stimulation (MS) often induces plants to undergo thigmomorphogenesis and to synthesize an array of signalling substances. In clonal plants, connected ramets often share resources and hormones. However, little is known about whether and how clonal integration influences the ability of clonal plants to withstand MS. We hypothesized that the effects of MS may be modulated by clonal integration.
We conducted an experiment in which ramet pairs of Leymus secalinus were subjected to three treatments: (1) connected ramet pairs under a homogeneous condition [i.e. the proximal (relatively old) and distal (relatively young) ramets were not mechanically stressed]; (2) connected ramet pairs under a heterogeneous condition (i.e. the proximal ramet was mechanically stressed but the distal ramet was not); and (3) disconnected ramet pairs under the same condition as in treatment 2. At the end of the experiment, we harvested all plants and determined their biomass and allocation.
Clonal integration had no significant influence on measured traits of distal L. secalinus ramets without MS. However, under MS, plants with distal ramets that were connected to a mother ramet produced more total plant biomass, below-ground biomass, ramets and total rhizome length than those that were not connected. Partial MS exerted local effects on stimulated ramets and remote effects on connected unstimulated ramets. Partial MS increased total biomass, root/shoot ratio, number of ramets and total rhizome length of stimulated proximal ramets, and increased total biomass, root weight ratio, number of ramets and total rhizome length of connected unstimulated ramets due to clonal integration.
These findings suggest that thigmomorphogenesis may protect plants from the stresses caused by high winds or trampling and that thigmomorphogenesis can be strongly modulated by the degree of clonal integration.
Clonal plants; heterogeneous habitats; resource translocation; thigmomorphogenesis
• Background and Aims The impact of evolutionary forces on insular systems is particularly exacerbated by the remoteness of islands, strong founder effects, small population size and the influence of biotic and abiotic factors. Patterns of molecular diversity were analysed in an island system with Santalum insulare, a sandalwood species endemic to eastern Polynesia. The aims were to evaluate clonality and to study the genetic diversity and structure of this species, in order to understand the evolutionary process and to define a conservation strategy.
• Methods Eight nuclear microsatellites were used to investigate clonality, genetic variation and structure of the French Polynesian sandalwood populations found on ten islands distributed over three archipelagos.
• Key Results It was found that 58 % of the 384 trees analysed were clones. The real size of the populations is thus dramatically reduced, with sometimes only one genet producing ramets by root suckering. The diversity parameters were low for islands (nA = 1·5–5·0; HE = 0·28–0·49). No departure from Hardy–Weinberg proportion was observed except within Tahiti island, where a significant excess of homozygotes was noted in the highland population. Genetic structure was characterized by high levels of differentiation between archipelagos (27 % of the total variation) and islands (FST = 0·50). The neighbour-joining tree did not discriminate the three archipelagos but separated the Society archipelago from the other two.
• Conclusions This study shows that clonality is a frequent phenomenon in S. insulare. The genetic diversity within populations is lower than the values assessed in species distributed on the mainland, as a consequence of insularity. But this can also be explained by the overexploitation of sandalwood. The differentiation between archipelagos and islands within archipelagos is very high because of the limited gene flow due to oceanic barriers. Delineation of evolutionary significant units and principles for population management are proposed based on this molecular analysis.
Clonality; conservation; endangered species; genetic diversity; genetic structure; insularity; nuclear microsatellites; Santalum insulare; French Polynesia
Spatially heterogeneous distribution of interspecific competitors and intraspecific aggregation of offspring ramets may affect the growth and size structure of clonal plant populations, but these have been rarely studied. We conducted a greenhouse experiment in which we grew a population of eight offspring ramets (plants) of the stoloniferous clonal plant Hydrocotyle vulgaris aggregately or segregately in two homogeneous treatments with or without a competing grass Festuca elata and a heterogeneous treatment with a patchy distribution of the grass. In patchy grass treatments, H. vulgaris produced markedly more biomass, ramets and stolons in open patches (without grasses) than in grass patches, but displayed lower size variations as measured by coefficient of variation of biomass, ramets and stolons among the eight plants. In open areas, H. vulgaris produced statistically the same amounts of biomass and even more stolons and showed higher size variations in patchy grass treatments than in open (no grass) treatments. In grass areas, H. vulgaris grew much worse and displayed higher size variations in patchy grass treatments than in full grass treatments. Ramet aggregation decreased the growth of H. vulgaris in open treatments and in both open and grass patches in patchy grass treatments, but had little effect in full grass treatments. Ramet aggregation had little effect on size variations. Therefore, heterogeneous distribution of competitors can affect the growth and size structure of clonal plant populations, and ramet aggregation may decrease population growth when they grow in open environments or heterogeneous environments with a patchy distribution of interspecific competitors.
Clonal plants spreading horizontally and forming a network structure of ramets exhibit complex growth patterns to maximize resource uptake from the environment. They respond to spatial heterogeneity by changing their internode length or branching frequency. Ramets definitively root in the soil but stay interconnected for a varying period of time thus allowing an exchange of spatial and temporal information. We quantified the foraging response of clonal plants depending on the local soil quality sampled by the rooting ramet (i.e. the present information) and the resource variability sampled by the older ramets (i.e. the past information). We demonstrated that two related species, Potentilla reptans and P. anserina, responded similarly to the local quality of their environment by decreasing their internode length in response to nutrient-rich soil. Only P. reptans responded to resource variability by decreasing its internode length. In both species, the experience acquired by older ramets influenced the plastic response of new rooted ramets: the internode length between ramets depended not only on the soil quality locally sampled but also on the soil quality previously sampled by older ramets. We quantified the effect of the information perceived at different time and space on the foraging behavior of clonal plants by showing a non-linear response of the ramet rooting in the soil of a given quality. These data suggest that the decision to grow a stolon or to root a ramet at a given distance from the older ramet results from the integration of the past and present information about the richness and the variability of the environment.
Spatial heterogeneity in resource supply is common and responses to heterogeneous resource supply have been extensively documented in clonal angiosperms but not in pteridophytes. To test the hypotheses that clonal integration can modify responses of pteridophytes to heterogeneous resource supply and the integration effect is larger at higher patch contrast, we conducted a field experiment with three homogeneous and two heterogeneous light treatments on the rhizomatous, understory fern Diplopterygium glaucum in an evergreen broad-leaved forest in East China. In homogeneous treatments, all D. glaucum ramets in 1.5 m×1.5 m units were subjected to 10, 40 and 100% natural light, respectively. In the heterogeneous treatment of low patch contrast, ramets in the central 0.5 m×0.5 m plots of the units were subjected to 40% natural light and their interconnected ramets in the surrounding area of the units to 100%; in the heterogeneous treatment of high patch contrast, ramets in the central plots were subjected to 10% natural light and those in the surrounding area to 100%. In the homogeneous treatments, biomass and number of living ramets in the central plots decreased and number of dead ramets increased with decreasing light supply. At low contrast heterogeneous light supply did not affect performance or biomass allocation of D. glaucum in the central plots, but at high contrast it increased lamina biomass and number of living ramets older than annual and modified biomass allocation to lamina and rhizome. Thus, clonal integration can affect responses of understory ferns to heterogeneous light supply and ramets in low light patches can be supported by those in high light. The results also suggest that effects of clonal integration depend on the degree of patch contrast and a significant integration effect may be found only under a relatively high patch contrast.
Species' life-history and population dynamics are strongly shaped by the longevity of individuals, but life span is one of the least accessible demographic traits, particularly in clonal plants. Continuous vegetative reproduction of genets enables persistence despite low or no sexual reproduction, affecting genet turnover rates and population stability. Therefore, the longevity of clonal plants is of considerable biological interest, but remains relatively poorly known.
Here, we critically review the present knowledge on the longevity of clonal plants and discuss its importance for population persistence. Direct life-span measurements such as growth-ring analysis in woody plants are relatively easy to take, although, for many clonal plants, these methods are not adequate due to the variable growth pattern of ramets and difficult genet identification. Recently, indirect methods have been introduced in which genet size and annual shoot increments are used to estimate genet age. These methods, often based on molecular techniques, allow the investigation of genet size and age structure of whole populations, a crucial issue for understanding their viability and persistence. However, indirect estimates of clonal longevity are impeded because the process of ageing in clonal plants is still poorly understood and because their size and age are not always well correlated. Alternative estimators for genet life span such as somatic mutations have recently been suggested.
Empirical knowledge on the longevity of clonal species has increased considerably in the last few years. Maximum age estimates are an indicator of population persistence, but are not sufficient to evaluate turnover rates and the ability of long-lived clonal plants to enhance community stability and ecosystem resilience. In order to understand the dynamics of populations it will be necessary to measure genet size and age structure, not only life spans of single individuals, and to use such data for modelling of genet dynamics.
Age; community stability; genet size; global change; life history; population dynamics; somatic mutation; vegetative reproduction
How plant-feeding insects distribute themselves and utilize their host plant resources is still poorly understood. Several processes may be involved, and their relative roles may vary with the spatial scale considered. Herein, we investigate small-scale patterns, namely how population density of a gall midge is affected by individual growth form, phenology, and microsite characteristics of its herb host. The long-lived plant individuals vary much with regard to number of shoots, flower abundance, and flowering phenology. This variation is connected to site characteristics, primarily the degree of sun exposure. The monophagous insect galls the flowers of the host plant – an easily defined food resource. It is a poor disperser, but very long-lived; diapausing larvae can stay in the soil for many years. Galls were censused on individual plants during 5 years; from a peak to a low in gall population density. Only a very small fraction of the flowers produced (<0.5%) were galled even in the peak year. Nevertheless, most plant individuals had galls at least 1 year. In a stepwise multiple regression, plant size (number of shoots) was found to be the most important predictor of gall density (galls/flower). However, gall density decreased more than one order of magnitude over the plant size range observed. There was also a weak effect of plant phenology. Early flowering plants had lower gall densities than those starting later. Sun exposure had no direct effect on gall density, but a path analysis revealed indirect effects via the timing of flowering. Gall population change was highly synchronous in different parts of the study area with no significant decrease in synchrony with distance.
Flowering pattern; prolonged diapause; resource exploitation; small scale patchiness; white swallow-wort
Background and Aims
One of the special properties of clonal plants is the capacity for physiological integration, which can increase plant performance through mechanisms such as resource sharing and co-ordinated phenotypic plasticity when plants grow in microsites with contrasting resource availabilities. However, many clonal plants are colonized by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). Since AMF are likely to reduce contrasts in effective resource levels, they could also reduce these effects of clonal integration on plasticity and performance in heterogeneous environments.
To test this hypothesis, pairs of connected and disconnected ramets of the stoloniferous herb Trifolium repens were grown. One ramet in a pair was given high light and low nutrients while the other ramet was given high nutrients and low light. The pairs were inoculated with zero, one or five species of AMF.
Pairs of ramets grown without AMF developed division of labour and benefited from resource sharing, as indicated by effects of connection on allocation to roots, accumulation of mass, and ramet production. Inoculation with five species of AMF significantly reduced these effects of connection, both by inhibiting them in ramets given high nutrients and inducing them in ramets given high light. Inoculation with one species of AMF also reduced some effects of connection, but generally to a lesser degree.
The results show that AMF can significantly modify the effects of clonal integration on the plasticity and performance of clonal plants in heterogeneous environments. In particular, AMF may partly replace the effects and benefits of clonal integration in low-nutrient habitats, possibly more so where species richness of AMF is high. This provides the first test of interaction between colonization by AMF and physiological integration in a clonal plant, and a new example of how biotic and abiotic factors could interact to determine the ecological importance of clonal growth.
Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi; biomass allocation; clonal plant; division of labour; environmental heterogeneity; light availability; nutrients; white clover
Asexual bacterial populations inevitably consist of an assemblage of distinct clonal lineages. However, bacterial populations are not entirely asexual since recombinational exchanges occur, mobilizing small genome segments among lineages and species. The relative contribution of recombination, as opposed to de novo mutation, in the generation of new bacterial genotypes varies among bacterial populations and, as this contribution increases, the clonality of a given population decreases. In consequence, a spectrum of possible population structures exists, with few bacterial species occupying the extremes of highly clonal and completely non-clonal, most containing both clonal and non-clonal elements. The analysis of collections of bacterial isolates, which accurately represent the natural population, by nucleotide sequence determination of multiple housekeeping loci provides data that can be used both to investigate the population structure of bacterial pathogens and for the molecular characterization of bacterial isolates. Understanding the population structure of a given pathogen is important since it impacts on the questions that can be addressed by, and the methods and samples required for, effective molecular epidemiological studies.
An analysis of X-linked genetic variation in human populations provides insights into population structure and demographic patterns.
The transmission pattern of the human X chromosome reduces its population size relative to the autosomes, subjects it to disproportionate influence by female demography, and leaves X-linked mutations exposed to selection in males. As a result, the analysis of X-linked genomic variation can provide insights into the influence of demography and selection on the human genome. Here we characterize the genomic variation represented by 16,297 X-linked SNPs genotyped in the CEPH human genome diversity project samples.
We found that X chromosomes tend to be more differentiated between human populations than autosomes, with several notable exceptions. Comparisons between genetically distant populations also showed an excess of X-linked SNPs with large allele frequency differences. Combining information about these SNPs with results from tests designed to detect selective sweeps, we identified two regions that were clear outliers from the rest of the X chromosome for haplotype structure and allele frequency distribution. We were also able to more precisely define the geographical extent of some previously described X-linked selective sweeps.
The relationship between male and female demographic histories is likely to be complex as evidence supporting different conclusions can be found in the same dataset. Although demography may have contributed to the excess of SNPs with large allele frequency differences observed on the X chromosome, we believe that selection is at least partially responsible. Finally, our results reveal the geographical complexities of selective sweeps on the X chromosome and argue for the use of diverse populations in studies of selection.
When growing in reciprocal patches in terms of availability of different resources, connected ramets of clonal plants will specialize to acquire and exchange locally abundant resources more efficiently. This has been termed division of labour. We asked whether division of labour can occur physiologically as well as morphologically and will increase with patch contrasts.
We subjected connected and disconnected ramet pairs of Potentilla anserina to Control, Low, Medium and High patch contrast by manipulating light and nutrient levels for ramets in each pair. Little net benefit of inter-ramet connection in terms of biomass was detected. Shoot-root ratio did not differ significantly between paired ramets regardless of connection under Control, Low and Medium. Under High, however, disconnected shaded ramets with ample nutrients showed significantly larger shoot-root ratios (2.8∼6.5 fold) than fully-lit but nutrient-deficient ramets, and than their counterparts under any other treatment; conversely, fully-lit but nutrient-deficient ramets, when connected to shaded ramets with ample nutrients, had significantly larger shoot-root ratios (2.0∼4.9 fold) than the latter and than their counterparts under any other treatment. Only under High patch contrast, fully-lit ramets, if connected to shaded ones, had 8.9% higher chlorophyll content than the latter, and 22.4% higher chlorophyll content than their isolated counterparts; the similar pattern held for photosynthetic capacity under all heterogeneous treatments.
Division of labour in clonal plants can be realized by ramet specialization in morphology and in physiology. However, modest ramet specialization especially in morphology among patch contrasts may suggest that division of labour will occur when the connected ramets grow in reciprocal patches between which the contrast exceeds a threshold. Probably, this threshold patch contrast is the outcome of the clone-wide cost-benefit tradeoff and is significant for risk-avoidance, especially in the disturbance-prone environments.
Floral traits within plants can vary with flower position or flowering time. Within an inflorescence, sexual allocation of early produced basal flowers is often female-biased while later produced distal flowers are male-biased. Such temporal adjustment of floral resource has been considered one of the potential advantages of modularity (regarding a flower as a module) in hermaphrodites. However, flowers are under constraints of independent evolution of a given trait. To understand flower diversification within inflorescences, here we examine variation and covariation in floral traits within racemes at the individual and the maternal family level respectively in an alpine herb Aconitum gymnandrum (Ranunculaceae).
We found that floral traits varied significantly with flower position and among families, and position effects were family-specific. Most of the variance of floral traits was among individuals rather than among flowers within individuals or among families. Significant phenotypic correlations between traits were not affected by position, indicating trait integration under shared developmental regulation. In contrast, positive family-mean correlations in floral traits declined gradually from basal to distal flowers (nine significant correlations among floral traits in basal flowers and only three in distal flowers), showing position-specificity. Therefore, the pattern and magnitude of genetic correlations decreased with flower position.
This finding on covariation pattern in floral reproductive structures within racemes has not been revealed before, providing insights into temporal variation and position effects in floral traits within plants and the potential advantages of modularity in hermaphrodites.
• Background and Aims In clonal plants, internode connections allow translocation of photosynthates, water, nutrients and other substances among ramets. Clonal plants form large systems that are likely to experience small-scale spatial heterogeneity. Physiological and morphological responses of Fragaria vesca to small-scale heterogeneity in soil quality were investigated, together with how such heterogeneity influences the placement of ramets. As a result of their own activities plants may modify the suitability of their habitats over time. However, most experiments on habitat selection by clonal plants have not generally considered time as an important variable. In the present study, how the foraging behaviour of clonal plants may change over time was also investigated.
• Methods In a complex of environments with different heterogeneity, plant performance was determined in terms of biomass, ramet production and photosynthetic activity. To identify habitat selection, the number of ramets produced and patch where they rooted were monitored.
• Key Results Parent ramets in heterogeneous environments showed significantly higher maximum and effective quantum yields of photosystem II than parents in homogeneous environments. Parents in heterogeneous environments also showed significantly higher investment in photosynthetic biomass and stolon/total biomass, produced longer stolons, and had higher mean leaf size than parents in homogeneous environments. Total biomass and number of offspring ramets were similar in both environments. However, plants in homogeneous environments showed random allocation of offspring ramets to surrounding patches, whereas plants in heterogeneous environments showed preferential allocation of offspring to higher-quality patches.
• Conclusions The results suggest that F. vesca employs physiological and morphological strategies to enable efficient resource foraging in heterogeneous environments and demonstrate the benefits of physiological integration in terms of photosynthetic efficiency. The findings indicate that short-term responses cannot be directly extrapolated to the longer term principally because preferential colonization of high-quality patches means that these patches eventually show reduced quality. This highlights the importance of considering the time factor in experiments examining responses of clonal plants to heterogeneity.
Chlorophyll fluorescence; foraging behaviour; Fragaria vesca; habitat selection; physiological integration; source–sink hypothesis
Balancing selection is potentially an important biological force for maintaining advantageous genetic diversity in populations, including variation that is responsible for long-term adaptation to the environment. By serving as a means to maintain genetic variation, it may be particularly relevant to maintaining phenotypic variation in natural populations. Nevertheless, its prevalence and specific targets in the human genome remain largely unknown. We have analyzed the patterns of diversity and divergence of 13,400 genes in two human populations using an unbiased single-nucleotide polymorphism data set, a genome-wide approach, and a method that incorporates demography in neutrality tests. We identified an unbiased catalog of genes with signatures of long-term balancing selection, which includes immunity genes as well as genes encoding keratins and membrane channels; the catalog also shows enrichment in functional categories involved in cellular structure. Patterns are mostly concordant in the two populations, with a small fraction of genes showing population-specific signatures of selection. Power considerations indicate that our findings represent a subset of all targets in the genome, suggesting that although balancing selection may not have an obvious impact on a large proportion of human genes, it is a key force affecting the evolution of a number of genes in humans.
overdominance; frequency-dependent selection; heterosis; human evolution; population genetics; human diversity
Here we present, to the authors' knowledge for the very first time for a small marsupial, a thorough analysis of the demography and population dynamics of the mouse opossum (Thylamys elegans) in western South America. We test the relative importance of feedback structure and climatic factors (rainfall and the Southern Oscillation Index) in explaining the temporal variation in the demography of the mouse opossum. The demographic information was incorporated into a stage-structured population dynamics model and the model's predictions were compared with observed patterns. The mouse opossum's capture rates showed seasonal (within-year) and between-year variability, with individuals having higher capture rates during late summer and autumn and lower capture rates during winter and spring. There was also a strong between-year effect on capture probabilities. The reproductive (the fraction of reproductively active individuals) and recruitment rates showed a clear seasonal and a between-year pattern of variation with the peak of reproductive activity occuring during winter and early spring. In addition, the fraction of reproductive individuals was positively related to annual rainfall, while population density and annual rainfall positively influenced the recruitment rate. The survival rates were negatively related to annual rainfall. The average finite population growth rate during the study period was estimated to be 1.011 +/- 0.0019 from capture-recapture estimates. While the annual growth rate estimated from the seasonal linear matrix models was 1.026, the subadult and adult survival and maturation rates represent between 54% (winter) and 81% (summer) of the impact on the annual growth rate.
Rare long distance dispersal events impact the demography and the genetic structure of populations. When dispersal is modelled via a dispersal kernel, one possible characterisation of long-distance dispersal is given by the shape of the tail of the kernel, i.e. its type of decay. This characteristic is known to directly act on the speed and pattern of colonization, and on the spatial structure of genetic diversity during colonization. In particular, colonization waves behave differently depending on whether the kernel decreases faster or slower than an exponential (i.e. is thin-tailed vs. fat-tailed). To interpret and extend published results on the impact of long-distance dispersal on the genetic structure of populations, we examine a classification of dispersal kernels based on the shape of their tails and formally demonstrate qualitative differences among them that can influence the predicted diversity of a propagule pool sampled far from two distinct sources.
We show that a fat-tailed kernel leads asymptotically to a diverse propagule pool containing a balanced mixing of the propagules from the two sources, whereas a thin-tailed kernel results in all propagules originating from the closest source. We further show that these results hold for biologically relevant distances under certain circumstances, and in particular if the number of propagules is large enough, as would be the case for pollen or seeds.
To understand the impact of long-distance dispersal on the structure and dynamics of a metapopulation, it might be less important to precisely estimate an average dispersal distance than to determine if the tail of the dispersal kernel is fatter or thinner than that of an exponential function. Depending solely on this characteristic, a metapopulation will behave similarly to an island model with a diverse immigrant pool or to a stepping-stone model with migrants from closest populations. Our results further help to understand why thin-tailed dispersal kernels lead to a colonization wave of constant speed, whereas fat-tailed dispersal kernels lead to a wave of increasing speed. Our results also suggest that the diversity of the pollen cloud of a mother plant should increase with increasing isolation for fat-tailed kernels, whereas it should decrease for thin-tailed kernels.
Using molecular fingerprinting (amplified fragment length polymorphism [AFLP] method), we explored the potential of small-scale population analysis for understanding colonization patterns of herb layer species in forests after canopy disturbance. We investigated three common forest understorey species with different life forms (Trientalis europaea, Calamagrostis villosa, and Vaccinium myrtillus) in the Harz Mountains in Germany in three different gap age classes and undisturbed forest. For two of them (T. europaea and C. villosa), we analyzed clone sizes and clonal structure. We hypothesized that clone sizes depend on age since gap formation and are affected by light availability. Mean patch sizes of V. myrtillus, T. europaea, and C. villosa formed were 3.7 m2, 27.9 m2, and 40.6 m2, respectively. Trientalis europaea and C. villosa patches consisted mostly of more than one genet. Largest clone sizes of T. europaea were encountered in gaps of intermediate successional age (15–60 years, averaged minimum estimation of clone sizes: 6.56 m2) whereas clone size of C. villosa was found to be independent from gap age and had a mean minimum clone size of 0.49 m2. In both species, clone size was positively related to light availability. Additionally, there was a positive relationship between clone size and ramet density for T. europaea and C. villosa. Genetic variation was higher within populations of T. europaea and C. villosa than among populations. Trientalis europaea was the only species with a clear genetic isolation by distance, pointing at an equilibrium between gene flow and genetic drift. In conclusion, we showed that forest canopy gap dynamics clearly affect the small-scale structure of populations of understorey plants. Species with high lateral growth rates, such as T. europaea offer the possibility to serve as “ecological clock” for dating ecological processes.
AFLP; Calamagrostis villosa; Clone sizes; Gap dynamics; Trientalis europaea; Vaccinium myrtillus