Population genetic theory predicts that the self-incompatible and perennial herb, Arabidopsis lyrata, will have a genetic structure that differs from the self-fertilizing, annual Arabidopsis thaliana. We quantified the genetic structure for eight populations of A. lyrata ssp. petraea in historically nonglaciated regions of central Europe. Analysis of 20 microsatellite loci for 344 individuals demonstrated that, in accordance with predictions, diploid populations had high genome-wide heterozygosity (HO = 0.48; HE = 0.52), high within-population diversity (83% of total) compatible with mutation–drift equilibrium, and moderate differentiation among populations (FST = 0.17). Within a single population, the vast majority of genetic variability (92%) was found at the smallest spatial scale (< 3 m). Although there was no evidence of biparental inbreeding or clonal propagation at this scale (FIS = 0.003), significant fine-scale spatial autocorrelation indicated localized gene flow presumably due to gravity dispersed seeds (Sp = 0.018). Limited gene flow between isolated population clusters (regions) separated by hundreds of kilometres has given rise to an isolation by distance pattern of diversification, with low, but significant, differentiation among regions (FST = 0.05). The maintenance of geographically widespread polymorphisms and uniformly high diversity throughout central Europe is consistent with periglacial survival of A. lyrata ssp. petraea north of the Alps in steppe-tundra habitats during the last glacial maximum. As expected of northern and previously glaciated localities, A. lyrata in Iceland was genetically less diverse and highly differentiated from central Europe (HE = 0.37; FST = 0.27).
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