The identification of genetically homogeneous groups of individuals is a long standing issue in population genetics. A recent Bayesian algorithm implemented in the software STRUCTURE allows the identification of such groups. However, the ability of this algorithm to detect the true number of clusters (K) in a sample of individuals when patterns of dispersal among populations are not homogeneous has not been tested. The goal of this study is to carry out such tests, using various dispersal scenarios from data generated with an individual-based model. We found that in most cases the estimated 'log probability of data' does not provide a correct estimation of the number of clusters, K. However, using an ad hoc statistic Delta K based on the rate of change in the log probability of data between successive K values, we found that STRUCTURE accurately detects the uppermost hierarchical level of structure for the scenarios we tested. As might be expected, the results are sensitive to the type of genetic marker used (AFLP vs. microsatellite), the number of loci scored, the number of populations sampled, and the number of individuals typed in each sample.
Plants offer excellent models to investigate how gene flow shapes the organization of genetic diversity. Their three genomes can have different modes of transmission and will hence experience varying levels of gene flow. We have compiled studies of genetic structure based on chloroplast DNA (cpDNA), mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and nuclear markers in seed plants. Based on a data set of 183 species belonging to 103 genera and 52 families, we show that the precision of estimates of genetic differentiation (G(ST)) used to infer gene flow is mostly constrained by the sampling of populations. Mode of inheritance appears to have a major effect on G(ST). Maternally inherited genomes experience considerably more subdivision (median value of 0.67) than paternally or biparentally inherited genomes (similar to0.10). G(ST) at cpDNA and mtDNA markers covary narrowly when both genomes are maternally inherited, whereas G(ST) at paternally and biparentally inherited markers also covary positively but more loosely and G(ST) at maternally inherited markers are largely independent of values based on nuclear markers. A model-based gross estimate suggests that, at the rangewide scale, historical levels of pollen flow are generally at least an order of magnitude larger than levels of seed flow (median of the pollen-to-seed migration ratio: 17) and that pollen and seed gene flow vary independently across species. Finally, we show that measures of subdivision that take into account the degree of similarity between haplotypes (N-ST or R-ST) make better use of the information inherent in haplotype data than standard measures based on allele frequencies only.
Many mountain ranges have been strongly glaciated during the Quaternary ice ages, and the locations of glacial refugia of mountain plants have been debated for a long time. A series of detailed molecular studies, investigating intraspecific genetic variation of mountain plants in the European Alps, now allows for a first synopsis. A comparison of the phylogeographic patterns with geological and palaeoenvironmental data demonstrates that glacial refugia were located along the southwestern, southern, eastern and northern border of the Alps. Additional glacial refugia were present in central Alpine areas, where high‐elevation plants survived the last glaciation on ice‐free mountain tops. The observed intraspecific phylogeographies suggest general patterns of glacial survival, which conform to well‐known centres of Alpine species diversity and endemism. This implies that evolutionary or biogeographic processes induced by climatic fluctuations act on gene and species diversity in a similar way.
Elucidating the genetic basis of adaptive population divergence is a goal of central importance in evolutionary biology. In principle, it should be possible to identify chromosomal regions involved in adaptive divergence by screening genome-wide patterns of DNA polymorphism to detect the locus-specific signature of positive directional selection. In the case of spatially separated populations that inhabit different environments or sympatric populations that exploit different ecological niches, it is possible to identify loci that underlie divergently selected traits by comparing relative levels of differentiation among large numbers of unlinked markers. In this review I first address the question of whether diversifying selection on polygenic traits can be expected to produce predictable patterns of allelic variation at the underlying quantitative trait loci (QTL), and whether the locus-specific effects of selection can be reliably detected against the genome-wide backdrop of stochastic variability. I then review different approaches that have been developed to identify loci involved in adaptive population divergence and I discuss the relative merits of model-based approaches that rely on assumptions about population structure vs. model-free approaches that are based on empirical distributions of summary statistics. Finally, I consider the evolutionary and functional insights that might be gained by conducting genome scans for loci involved in adaptive population divergence.
Why are females so choosy when it comes to mating? This question has puzzled and marveled evolutionary and behavioral ecologists for decades. In mating systems in which males provide direct benefits to the female or her offspring, such as food or shelter, the answer seems straightforward — females should prefer to mate with males that are able to provide more resources. The answer is less clear in other mating systems in which males provide no resources (other than sperm) to females. Theoretical models that account for the evolution of mate choice in such nonresource‐based mating systems require that females obtain a genetic benefit through increased offspring fitness from their choice. Empirical studies of nonresource‐based mating systems that are characterized by strong female choice for males with elaborate sexual traits (like the large tail of peacocks) suggest that additive genetic benefits can explain only a small percentage of the variation in fitness. Other research on genetic benefits has examined nonadditive effects as another source of genetic variation in fitness and a potential benefit to female mate choice. In this paper, we review the sexual selection literature on genetic quality to address five objectives. First, we attempt to provide an integrated framework for discussing genetic quality. We propose that the term ‘good gene’ be used exclusively to refer to additive genetic variation in fitness, ‘compatible gene’ be used to refer to nonadditive genetic variation in fitness, and ‘genetic quality’ be defined as the sum of the two effects. Second, we review empirical approaches used to calculate the effect size of genetic quality and discuss these approaches in the context of measuring benefits from good genes, compatible genes and both types of genes. Third, we discuss biological mechanisms for acquiring and promoting offspring genetic quality and categorize these into three stages during breeding: (i) precopulatory (mate choice); (ii) postcopulatory, prefertilization (sperm utilization); and (iii) postcopulatory, postfertilization (differential investment). Fourth, we present a verbal model of the effect of good genes sexual selection and compatible genes sexual selection on population genetic variation in fitness, and discuss the potential trade‐offs that might exist between mate choice for good genes and mate choice for compatible genes. Fifth, we discuss some future directions for research on genetic quality and sexual selection.
Researchers in the field of molecular ecology and evolution require versatile and low‐cost genetic typing methods. The AFLP (amplified fragment length polymorphism) method was introduced 10 years ago and shows many features that fulfil these requirements. With good quality genomic DNA at hand, it is relatively easy to generate anonymous multilocus DNA profiles in most species and the start‐up time before data can be generated is often less than a week. Built‐in dynamic, yet simple modifications make it possible to find a protocol suitable to the genome size of the species and to screen thousands of loci in hundreds of individuals for a relatively low cost. Until now, the method has primarily been applied in studies of plants, bacteria and fungi, with a strong bias towards economically important cultivated species and their pests. In this review we identify a number of research areas in the study of wild species of animals where the AFLP method, presently very much underused, should be a very valuable tool. These aspects include classical problems such as studies of population genetic structure and phylogenetic reconstructions, and also new challenges such as finding markers for genes governing adaptations in wild populations and modifications of the protocol that makes it possible to measure expression variation of multiple genes (cDNA‐AFLP) and the distribution of DNA methylation. We hope this review will help molecular ecologists to identify when AFLP is likely to be superior to other more established methods, such as microsatellites, SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) analyses and multigene DNA sequencing.
Microsatellite genotyping errors will be present in all but the smallest data sets and have the potential to undermine the conclusions of most downstream analyses. Despite this, little rigorous effort has been made to quantify the size of the problem and to identify the commonest sources of error. Here, we use a large data set comprising almost 2000 Antarctic fur seals Arctocephalus gazella genotyped at nine hypervariable microsatellite loci to explore error detection methods, common sources of error and the consequences of errors on paternal exclusion. We found good concordance among a range of contrasting approaches to error‐rate estimation, our range being 0.0013 to 0.0074 per single locus PCR (polymerase chain reaction). The best approach probably involves blind repeat‐genotyping, but this is also the most labour‐intensive. We show that several other approaches are also effective at detecting errors, although the most convenient alternative, namely mother–offspring comparisons, yielded the lowest estimate of the error rate. In total, we found 75 errors, emphasizing their ubiquitous presence. The most common errors involved the misinterpretation of allele banding patterns ( n = 60, 80%) and of these, over a third ( n = 22, 36.7%) were due to confusion between homozygote and adjacent allele heterozygote genotypes. A specific test for whether a data set contains the expected number of adjacent allele heterozygotes could provide a useful tool with which workers can assess the likely size of the problem. Error rates are also positively correlated with both locus polymorphism and product size, again indicating aspects where extra effort at error reduction should be directed. Finally, we conducted simulations to explore the potential impact of genotyping errors on paternity exclusion. Error rates as low as 0.01 per allele resulted in a rate of false paternity exclusion exceeding 20%. Errors also led to reduced estimates of male reproductive skew and increases in the numbers of pups that matched more than one candidate male. Because even modest error rates can be strongly influential, we recommend that error rates should be routinely published and that researchers make an attempt to calculate how robust their analyses are to errors.
To study the consequences of hybridization and genome duplication on polyploid genome evolution and adaptation, we used independently formed hybrids ( Spartina × townsendii and Spartina × neyrautii ) that originated from natural crosses between Spartina alterniflora , an American introduced species, and the European native Spartina maritima . The hybrid from England, S. × townsendii , gave rise to the invasive allopolyploid, salt‐marsh species, Spartina anglica . Recent studies indicated that allopolyploid speciation may be associated with rapid genetic and epigenetic changes. To assess this in Spartina , we performed AFLP (amplified fragment length polymorphism) and MSAP (methylation sensitive amplification polymorphism) on young hybrids and the allopolyploid. By comparing the subgenomes in the hybrids and the allopolyploid to the parental species, we inferred structural changes that arose repeatedly in the two independently formed hybrids. Surprisingly, 30% of the parental methylation patterns are altered in the hybrids and the allopolyploid. This high level of epigenetic regulation might explain the morphological plasticity of Spartina anglica and its larger ecological amplitude. Hybridization rather than genome doubling seems to have triggered most of the methylation changes observed in Spartina anglica .
We review studies that have used molecular markers to address ecological and microevolutionary processes in parasites. Our goal is to highlight areas of research that may be of particular interest in relation to the parasitic lifestyle, and to draw attention to areas that require additional study. Topics include species identification, phylogeography, host specificity and speciation, population genetic structure, modes of reproduction and transmission patterns, and searching for loci under selection.
Ambrosia artemisiifolia is an aggressive North American annual weed, found particularly in sunflower and corn fields. Besides its economic impact on crop yield, it represents a major health problem because of its strongly allergenic pollen. Ragweed was imported inadvertently to Europe in the 18th century and has become invasive in several countries, notably in the Rhône Valley of France. It has recently expanded in both the Provence‐Alpes‐Côte‐d’Azur and Bourgogne regions. As first steps towards understanding the causes and mechanisms of ragweed invasion, genetic variability of French and North American populations was analysed using microsatellites. Overall genetic variability was similar in North America and in the Rhône‐Alpes region, but within‐population levels of genetic variability were surprisingly lower in native than in invasive French populations. French populations also exhibited lower among‐population differentiation. A significant pattern of isolation by distance was detected among North American populations but not among French populations. Assignment tests and distribution of rare alleles did not point to a single origin for all French populations, nor for all individuals within populations and private alleles from different North American populations were found in the same French populations. Indeed, within all French populations, individual plants were roughly equally assigned to the different North American populations. Altogether, these results suggest that the French invasive populations include plants from a mixture of sources. Reduced diversity in populations distant from the original area of introduction indicated that ragweed range expansion probably occurred through sequential bottlenecks from the original populations, and not from subsequent new introductions.
Many populations are composed of a mixture of individuals that reproduce at different times, and these times are often heritable. Under these conditions, gene flow should be limited between early and late reproducers, even within populations having a unimodal temporal distribution of reproductive activity. This temporal restriction on gene flow might be called ‘isolation by time’ (IBT) to acknowledge its analogy with isolation by distance (IBD). IBD and IBT are not exactly equivalent, however, owing to differences between dispersal in space and dispersal in time. We review empirical studies of natural populations that provide evidence for IBT based on heritabilities of reproductive time and on molecular genetic differences associated with reproductive time. When IBT is present, variation in selection through the reproductive season may lead to adaptive temporal variation in phenotypic traits [adaptation by time (ABT)]. We introduce a novel theoretical model that shows how ABT increases as (i) selection on the trait increases; (ii) environmental influences on reproductive time decrease; (iii) the heritability of reproductive time increases; and (iv) the temporal distribution of reproductive activity becomes increasingly uniform. We then review empirical studies of natural populations that provide evidence for ABT by documenting adaptive temporal clines in phenotypic traits. The best evidence for IBT and ABT currently comes from salmonid fishes and flowering plants, but we expect that future work will show these processes are more widespread.
Strategies for the identification of functional genetic variation underlying phenotypic traits of ecological and evolutionary importance have received considerable attention in the literature recently. This paper aims to bring together and compare the relative strengths and limitations of various potentially useful research strategies for dissecting functionally important genetic variation in a wide range of organisms. We briefly explore the relative strengths and limitations of traditional and emerging approaches and evaluate their potential use in free‐living populations. While it is likely that much of the progress in functional genetic analyses will rely on progress in traditional model species, it is clear that with prudent choices of methods and appropriate sampling designs, much headway can be also made in a diverse range of species. We suggest that combining research approaches targeting different functional and biological levels can potentially increase understanding the genetic basis of ecological and evolutionary processes both in model and non‐model organisms.
Landscape features such as mountains, rivers, and ecological gradients may strongly affect patterns of dispersal and gene flow among populations and thereby shape population dynamics and evolutionary trajectories. The landscape may have a particularly strong effect on patterns of dispersal and gene flow in amphibians because amphibians are thought to have poor dispersal abilities. We examined genetic variation at six microsatellite loci in Columbia spotted frogs ( Rana luteiventris ) from 28 breeding ponds in western Montana and Idaho, USA, in order to investigate the effects of landscape structure on patterns of gene flow. We were particularly interested in addressing three questions: (i) do ridges act as barriers to gene flow? (ii) is gene flow restricted between low and high elevation ponds? (iii) does a pond equal a ‘randomly mating population’ (a deme)? We found that mountain ridges and elevational differences were associated with increased genetic differentiation among sites, suggesting that gene flow is restricted by ridges and elevation in this species. We also found that populations of Columbia spotted frogs generally include more than a single pond except for very isolated ponds. There was also evidence for surprisingly high levels of gene flow among low elevation sites separated by large distances. Moreover, genetic variation within populations was strongly negatively correlated with elevation, suggesting effective population sizes are much smaller at high elevation than at low elevation. Our results show that landscape features have a profound effect on patterns of genetic variation in Columbia spotted frogs.
The field of landscape genetics has great potential to identify habitat features that influence population genetic structure. To identify landscape correlates of genetic differentiation in a quantitative fashion, we developed a novel approach using geographical information systems analysis. We present data on blotched tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum melanostictum) from 10 sites across the northern range of Yellowstone National Park in Montana and Wyoming, USA. We used eight microsatellite loci to analyse population genetic structure. We tested whether landscape variables, including topographical distance, elevation, wetland likelihood, cover type and number of river and stream crossings, were correlated with genetic subdivision (F-ST). We then compared five hypothetical dispersal routes with a straight-line distance model using two approaches: (i) partial Mantel tests using Akaike's information criterion scores to evaluate model robustness and (ii) the BIOENV procedure, which uses a Spearman rank correlation to determine the combination of environmental variables that best fits the genetic data. Overall, gene flow appears highly restricted among sites, with a global F-ST of 0.24. While there is a significant isolation-by-distance pattern, incorporating landscape variables substantially improved the fit of the model (from an r(2) of 0.3 to 0.8) explaining genetic differentiation. It appears that gene flow follows a straight-line topographic route, with river crossings and open shrub habitat correlated with lower F-ST and thus, decreased differentiation, while distance and elevation difference appear to increase differentiation. This study demonstrates a general approach that can be used to determine the influence of landscape variables on population genetic structure.
The vegetation of the northeast Qinghai‐Tibetan Plateau is dominated by alpine meadow and desert‐steppe with sparse forests scattered within it. To obtain a better understanding of the phylogeography of one constituent species of the forests in this region, we examined chloroplast trn T‐ trn F and trn S‐ trn G sequence variation within Juniperus przewalskii , a key endemic tree species. Sequence data were obtained from 392 trees in 20 populations covering the entire distribution range of the species. Six cpDNA haplotypes were identified. Significant population subdivision was detected ( G ST = 0.772, N ST = 0.834), suggesting low levels of recurrent gene flow among populations and significant phylogeographic structure ( N ST > G ST , P < 0.05). Eight of the nine disjunct populations surveyed on the high‐elevation northeast plateau were fixed for a single haplotype (A), while the remaining, more westerly population, contained the same haplotype at high frequency together with two low frequency haplotypes (C and F). In contrast, most populations that occurred at lower altitudes at the plateau edge were fixed or nearly fixed for one of two haplotypes, A or E. However, two plateau edge populations had haplotype compositions different from the rest. In one, four haplotypes (A, B, D and E) were present at approximately equivalent frequencies, which might reflect a larger refugium in the area of this population during the last glacial period. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that the most widely distributed haplotype A is not ancestral to other haplotypes. The contrasting phylogeographic structures of the haplotype‐rich plateau edge area and the almost haplotype‐uniform plateau platform region indicate that the plateau platform was recolonized by J. przewalskii during the most recent postglacial period. This is supported by the findings of a nested clade analysis, which inferred that postglacial range expansion from the plateau edge followed by recent fragmentation is largely responsible for the present‐day spatial distribution of cpDNA haplotypes within the species.
Although most genetic estimates of contemporary effective population size ( N e ) are based on models that assume N e is constant, in real populations N e changes (often dramatically) over time, and estimates (N̂ e ) will be influenced by N e in specific generations. In such cases, it is important to properly match N̂ e to the appropriate time periods (for example, in computing N e / N ratios). Here I consider this problem for semelparous species with two life histories (discrete generations and variable age at maturity — the ‘salmon’ model), for two different sampling plans, and for estimators based on single samples (linkage disequilibrium, heterozygote excess) and two samples (temporal method). Results include the following. Discrete generations : (i) Temporal samples from generations 0 and t estimate the harmonic mean N e in generations 0 through t − 1 but do not provide information about N e in generation t ; (ii) Single samples provide an estimate of N e in the parental generation, not the generation sampled; (iii) single‐sample and temporal estimates never provide information about N e in exactly the same generations; (iv) Recent bottlenecks can downwardly bias estimates based on linkage disequilibrium for several generations. Salmon model : (i) A pair of single‐cohort (typically juvenile) samples from years 0 and t provide a temporal estimate of the harmonic mean of the effective numbers of breeders in the two parental years ( N b (0) and N b ( t ) ), but adult samples are more difficult to interpret because they are influenced by N b in a number of previous years; (ii) For single‐cohort samples, both one‐sample and temporal methods provide estimates of N b in the same years (contrast with results for discrete generation model); (iii) Residual linkage disequilibrium associated with past population size will not affect single‐sample estimates of N b as much as in the discrete generation model because the disequilibrium diffuses among different years of breeders. These results lead to some general conclusions about genetic estimates of N e in iteroparous species with overlapping generations and identify areas in need of further research.
Field studies were done to assess how much of the transgenic, insecticidal protein, Cry1Ab, encoded by a truncated cry1Ab gene from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), was released from Bt-maize MON810 into soil and whether bacterial communities inhabiting the rhizosphere of MON810 maize were different from those of the rhizosphere of nontransgenic maize cultivars. Bacterial community structure was investigated by SSCP (single-strand conformation polymorphism) of PCR-amplified 16S rRNA genes from community DNA. Using an improved extraction and detection protocol based on a commercially available ELISA, it was possible to detect Cry1Ab protein extracted from soils to a threshold concentration of 0.07 ng/g soil. From 100 ng of purified Cry1Ab protein added per gram of soil, only an average of 37% was extractable. At both field sites investigated, the amount of Cry1Ab protein in bulk soil of MON810 field plots was always lower than in the rhizosphere, the latter ranging from 0.1 to 10 ng/g soil. Immunoreactive Cry1Ab protein was also detected at 0.21 ng/g bulk soil 7 months after harvesting, i.e. in April of the following year. At this time, however, higher values were found in residues of leaves (21 ng/g) and of roots (183 ng/g), the latter corresponding to 12% of the Cry1Ab protein present in intact roots. A sampling 2 months later indicated further degradation of the protein. Despite the detection of Cry1Ab protein in the rhizosphere of MON810 maize, the bacterial community structure was less affected by the Cry1Ab protein than by other environmental factors, i.e. the age of the plants or field heterogeneities. The persistence of Cry1Ab protein emphasizes the importance of considering post-harvest effects on nontarget organisms.
The movements of larvae between marine populations are difficult to follow directly and have been the subject of much controversy, especially in the Caribbean. The debate centres on the degree to which populations are demographically open, such that depleted populations can be replenished by recruitment from distant healthy populations, or demographically closed and thus in need of local management. Given the depressed state of many tropical reef populations, the understanding of these movements now bears critically on the number, placement, and size of marine reserves. Most genetic analyses assume that dispersal patterns have been stable for thousands of generations, thus they commonly reflect past colonization histories more than ongoing dispersal. Recently developed multilocus genotyping approaches, however, have the demonstrated ability to detect both migration and population isolation over far shorter timescales. Previously, we developed five microsatellite markers and demonstrated them to be both Mendelian and coral‐specific. Using these markers and Bayesian analyses, we show here that populations of the imperiled reef‐building coral, Acropora palmata , have experienced little or no recent genetic exchange between the western and the eastern Caribbean. Puerto Rico is identified as an area of mixing between the two subregions. As a consequence of this regional isolation, populations in the western and eastern Caribbean should have the potential to adapt to local conditions and will require population‐specific management strategies.
Bumblebees are major pollinators of crops and wildflowers in northern temperate regions. Knowledge of their ecology is vital for the design of effective management and conservation strategies but key aspects remain poorly understood. Here we employed microsatellite markers to estimate and compare foraging range and nest density among four UK species: Bombus terrestris, Bombus pascuorum, Bombus lapidarius , and Bombus pratorum . Workers were sampled along a 1.5‐km linear transect across arable farmland. Eight or nine polymorphic microsatellite markers were then used to identify putative sisters. In accordance with previous studies, minimum estimated maximum foraging range was greatest for B. terrestris (758 m) and least for B. pascuorum (449 m). The estimate for B. lapidarius was similar to B. pascuorum (450 m), while that of B. pratorum was intermediate (674 m). Since the area of forage available to bees increases as the square of foraging range, these differences correspond to a threefold variation in the area used by bumblebee nests of different species. Possible explanations for these differences are discussed. Estimates for nest density at the times of sampling were 29, 68, 117, and 26/km 2 for B. terrestris, B. pascuorum, B. lapidarius and B. pratorum , respectively. These data suggest that even among the most common British bumblebee species, significant differences in fundamental aspects of their ecology exist, a finding that should be reflected in management and conservation strategies.
This study details the phylogeographic pattern of the bank vole, Clethrionomys glareolus, a European rodent species strongly associated with forest habitat. We used sequences of 1011 base pairs of the mitochondrial DNA cytochrome b gene from 207 bank voles collected in 62 localities spread throughout its distribution area. Our results reveal the presence of three Mediterranean (Spanish, Italian and Balkan) and three continental (western, eastern and ‘Ural’) phylogroups. The endemic Mediterranean phylogroups did not contribute to the postglacial recolonization of much of the Palaearctic range of species. Instead, the major part of this region was apparently recolonized by bank voles that survived in glacial refugia in central Europe. Moreover, our phylogeographic analyses also reveal differentiated populations of bank voles in the Ural mountains and elsewhere, which carry the mitochondrial DNA of another related vole species, the ruddy vole ( Clethrionomys rutilus ). In conclusion, this study demonstrates a complex phylogeographic history for a forest species in Europe which is sufficiently adaptable that, facing climate change, survives in relict southern and northern habitats. The high level of genetic diversity characterizing vole populations from parts of central Europe also highlights the importance of such regions as a source of intraspecific genetic biodiversity.