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Keywords:

  • bryophyte;
  • founder effect;
  • intragametophytic selfing;
  • microsatellites;
  • New Zealand;
  • northwest North America

Abstract

The monoicous peatmoss Sphagnum subnitens has a tripartite distribution that includes disjunct population systems in Europe (including the Azores), northwestern North America and New Zealand. Regional genetic diversity was highest in European S. subnitens but in northwestern North America, a single microsatellite-based multilocus haploid genotype was detected across 16 sites ranging from Coos County, Oregon, to Kavalga Island in the Western Aleutians (a distance of some 4115 km). Two multilocus haploid genotypes were detected across 14 sites on South Island, New Zealand. The microsatellite-based regional genetic diversity detected in New Zealand and North American S. subnitens is the lowest reported for any Sphagnum. The low genetic diversity detected in both of these regions most likely resulted from a founder event associated with vegetative propagation and complete selfing, with one founding haploid plant in northwest North America and two in New Zealand. Thus, one plant appears to have contributed 100% of the gene pool for the population systems of S. subnitens occurring in northwest North America, and this is arguably the most genetically uniform group of plants having a widespread distribution yet detected. Although having a distribution spanning 12.5° of latitude and 56° of longitude, there was no evidence of any genetic diversification in S. subnitens in northwest North America. No genetic structure was detected among the three regions, and it appears that European plants of S. subnitens provided the source for New Zealand and northwest North American populations.