The clonal structure of Quercus geminata revealed by conserved microsatellite loci


P. J. Tranel. Fax: 1-217-333-4582; E-mail:


The scrub oak communities of the southeastern USA may have existed at their present locations for thousands of years. These oaks form suckers, and excavations of root systems suggest that clones may occupy very large areas. Resolution of the clonal nature of scrub oaks is important both to manage the tracts of this ecosystem that remain, and in conducting long-term ecological studies, where the study area must substantially exceed the area occupied by any single clone. Microsatellites were used to determine the genetic diversity of a dominant oak species within a 2-ha long-term experimental site on Merritt Island at the Kennedy Space Center. This area contains a long-term study of the effects of elevated CO2 on the ecosystem. Conservation of seven microsatellite loci, previously identified in the sessile oak, Quercus petraea, was tested in two Florida scrub oak species, Q. geminata and Q. myrtifolia. Sequence analysis revealed that all seven microsatellite loci were conserved in Q. geminata and five loci were conserved in Q. myrtifolia. Six microsatellite loci were polymorphic in Q. geminata and these were subsequently used to investigate the clonal structure of the Q. geminata population. Twenty-one unique combinations of microsatellites, or haplotypes, occurred only once, whereas the remaining 26 individuals belonged to a total of seven different haplotypes. Trees with identical haplotypes were in close proximity, supporting the interpretation that they were clones. The results showed that there is significant genetic diversity within the 2-ha experimental site. Microsatellites provided a powerful and noninvasive tool for distinguishing individual genotypes and determining an adequate area for long-term ecosystem studies.