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Keywords:

  • Ecology;
  • fragmentation;
  • fynbos;
  • life history traits;
  • population genetics;
  • South Africa

Abstract

We investigated the influence of differing life history traits on the genetic structure of the related species Mimetes fimbriifolius and Mimetes hirtus (Proteaceae), which occur in the South African fynbos. Both species are bird-pollinated and ant-dispersed, but differ in rarity, longevity, ecological strategy and the fragmentation of their distribution area. We used AFLPs to study genetic variation within and between 21 populations of these two species across their distribution range. AFLP analysis revealed significantly higher genetic variation within populations of M. fimbriifolius than within M. hirtus. While M. fimbriifolius clearly lacked any significant genetic differentiation between populations, a distinct geographic pattern was observed for M. hirtus. Differentiation was, however, stronger at the regional (ΦPT = 0.57) than at the local scale (ΦPT = 0.08). Our results clearly indicate that even closely related species that share the same mode of pollination and seed dispersal can differ in their genetic structure, depending on the magnitude of fragmentation, longevity of individuals and ecological strategy.