Genetic diversity is low in natural populations of red pine, Pinus resinosa, a species that has a vast range across north-eastern North America. In this study, we examined 10 chloroplast microsatellite or simple sequence repeats (cpSSR) loci in 136 individuals from 10 widespread populations. Substantial variation for the cpSSR loci was observed in the study populations. The contrast with red pine’s lack of variation for other types of loci is likely to be due to the higher mutation rates typical of SSR loci. The amount of variation is lower than that generally found for cpSSR loci in other pine species. In addition, the variation exhibits a striking geographical pattern. Most of the genetic diversity is among populations, with little within populations, indicating substantial isolation of and genetic drift within many populations in the southern half of the species distribution. The greatest diversity now occurs in the north-eastern part of New England, which is especially intriguing because this entire area was glaciated. Thus the centre of diversity cannot be the origin of postglacial populations, rather it is likely caused by admixture, most probably because of influences from two separate refugia. Furthermore, the pattern indicates that the spread of red pine since the last glaciation is rather more complex than usually described, and it likely includes more than one refugia, complex migration routes, and postglacial-retreat isolation and genetic drift among shrinking populations in regions of the present southern range.
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