Fine-scale genetic structure and clinal variation in Silene acaulis despite high gene flow


JANET L.GEHRING Department of Biology, Bradley University, Peoria, IL 61625, U.S.A. E-mail:


We investigated whether the distribution of genes reflects the patchy distribution of individuals of Silene acaulis on Pennsylvania Mountain in central Colorado. Five polymorphic protein loci were analysed using both F-statistics and spatial autocorrelation. Low θPOP (FST) indicated little genetic differentiation between populations ≈1 km apart. This indicates high gene flow within our study site, perhaps as a result of long-distance pollen dispersal. Despite little differentiation between populations, there was clinal variation at the 6-Pgd-1 locus and significant within-population genetic structure (indicated by both θPATCH and spatial autocorrelation). We infer that this fine-scale genetic structure is the result of limited seed dispersal combined with genetic drift. The level of genetic structure varied markedly among populations, with the greatest genetic structure (highest Moran's I and θPATCH values) in two low-altitude, small, low-density populations. Intensive sampling such as used in this study may reveal similar patterns of fine-scale genetic differentiation in other patchily distributed plant species, particularly those with limited seed dispersal.