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Keywords:

  • Bayesian clustering;
  • Ficus citrifolia ;
  • Ficus eximia ;
  • gene flow;
  • Sp statistic

Abstract

In this analysis, we attempt to understand how monoecy and dioecy drive spatial genetic structure (SGS) in plant populations. For this purpose, plants of the genus Ficus were used as a comparative model due to their particular characteristics, including high species diversity, variation in life histories, and sexual systems. One of the main issues we assessed is whether dioecious fig tree populations are more spatially genetically structured than monoecious populations. Using the Sp statistic, which allows for quantitative comparisons among different studies, we compared the extent of SGS between monoecious and dioecious Ficus species. To broaden our conclusions we used published data on an additional 27 monoecious and dioecious plant species. Furthermore, genetic diversity analyses were performed for two monoecious Ficus species using 12 microsatellite markers in order to strengthen our conclusions about SGS. Our results show that dioecy, more than monoecy, significantly contributes to SGS in plant populations. On average, the estimate of Sp was six times higher for dioecious Ficus species than monoecious Ficus species and it was two times higher in dioecious than monoecious plant species. Considering these results, we emphasize that the long-distance pollen dispersal mechanism in monoecious Ficus species seems to be the dominant factor in determining weak spatial genetic structure, high levels of genetic diversity, and lack of inbreeding. Although Ficus constitute a model species to study SGS, a more general comparison encompassing a wider range of plants is required in order to better understand how sexual systems affect genetic structure.