Classic clover cline clues


Matthew S. Olson, Fax: +1 806 742 2963; E-mail:


Adaptive clines are striking examples of natural selection in action, yet few have been studied in depth. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Kooyers & Olsen (2012) introduce modern analyses and thinking towards studies of a classical example of the rapid and repeated evolution of latitudinal and altitudinal clines in cyanogenesis in white clover, Trifolium repens L. Recognizing that adaptive clines represent trade-offs in the selective benefits of traits at different ends of a geographical transect, these researchers focus on whether evidence for selection can be found at regional (coarse) and local (fine) scales. After adjusting for population genetic patterns generated by demographic processes, Kooyers and Olsen provide evidence that the cyanogenesis cline is adaptive across a transect from Louisiana to Wisconsin, USA. Within local populations, divergent selection on coupling dominant and recessive alleles that underlie cyanogenesis is predicted to drive populations to gametic phase disequilibrium (LD), a pattern that has been found in several other studies reviewed by Kooyers and Olsen. The absence of LD within any sampled populations in this study leads the authors to suggest that selective patterns within these clines may be more complex than previously proposed, perhaps even following theoretical predictions of a geographic mosaic.