A detailed description of local population structure in Arabidopsis thaliana is presented, including an assessment of the genetic relatedness of individuals collected from the same field. A hierarchical sample of four individuals from 37 local populations, including North America, England, Eastern and Western Europe, and Asia, and a selection of ecotypes, were analysed for variation in Adh, ChiA, FAH1, F3H, Rpm1, Rps5, and five microsatellite loci. Twenty-eight of the 37 population samples contained individuals with identical multilocus haplotypes, 12 of which were fixed for a single haplotype. These monomorphic populations were evenly distributed over the species range. Only in North America did we find a single multilocus haplotype shared among different populations, perhaps indicating a continental founder event. Despite the occurrence of local inbreeding, a considerable amount of genetic variation was found segregating within and among local populations. A novel analysis of haplotype differences reveals that genetic differentiation occurs at every geographic scale in A. thaliana, where we find a surprising under-representation of recent migrants between local populations. This leads us to hypothesize that most dispersal between A. thaliana populations is by pollen rather than seed. Based on the structure of A. thaliana populations, it appears that regional groups of local populations may provide the most appropriate genetic material for linkage disequilibrium mapping of adaptive traits.
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