Contrasting effects of long distance seed dispersal on genetic diversity during range expansion


Ronald Bialozyt, Department of Conservation Biology, University of Marburg, Karl-von-Frisch-Strasse, D-35037 Marburg, Germany.
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Currently many attempts are made to reconstruct the colonization history of plant species after the last ice age. A surprising finding is that during the colonization phase genetic diversity did not decrease as much as expected. In this paper we examine whether long distance seed dispersal events could play a role in the unexpected maintenance of genetic diversity during range expansion. This study is based on simulations carried out with a maternally inherited haploid locus using a cellular automaton. The simulations reveal a close relationship between the frequency of long distance seed dispersal events and the amount of genetic diversity preserved during colonization. In particular, when the colonized region is narrow, a complete loss of genetic diversity results from the occurrence of very rare long distance dispersal (LDD) events. We call this phenomenon the ‘embolism effect’. However, slightly higher rates of LDD events reverse this effect, up to the point that diversity is better preserved than in a pure diffusion model. This phenomenon is linked to the reorganization of the genetic structure during colonization and is called the ‘reshuffling effect’.