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Keywords:

  • colonization;
  • gene flow;
  • genetic diversity;
  • maternity;
  • paternity

Abstract

The ecological mechanisms that contribute to the acquisition of genetic diversity in an expanding population of the shrub, Myrica cerifera, on an island habitat were investigated. Genealogical reconstruction was used to assess the contribution of early reproductive colonists to subsequent recruitment. In addition, through determination of parentage, the source of recruiting seedlings was identified and the contribution of seed and pollen dispersal into the colonizing sites was inferred. The relative contribution of different sources of gene flow was determined directly and an investigation was made into how variability in breeding patterns may have contributed to observed levels of genetic variability. It was expected that early colonists that could flower would contribute to subsequent recruiting cohorts, and that the limited number of such early reproductive colonists would lead to variance in mating success, inbreeding, or bottlenecks which could reduce genetic diversity and increase genetic differentiation among subsequent recruiting cohorts. Analyses of parentage (with paternity exclusion probability > 95%) for all recruiting plants demonstrated that in fact, there was little contribution by the early reproductive colonists to subsequent cohorts, and that immigration from outside the study sites in the form of seed dispersal accounted for over 94% of the recruitment in the study plots, with pollen dispersal accounting for less than 3% gene flow. No genetic bottleneck or evidence of reproductive skew in the recruiting cohorts were found, suggesting that propagule dispersal was from many source individuals in other established populations.