Spatial genetic structure of aquatic bryophytes in a connected lake system


  • Editor
    X.-Q. Wang

Helena Korpelainen, Department of Agricultural Sciences, P.O. Box 27, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.


Using genetic markers, we investigated the genetic structure of three clonal aquatic moss species, Calliergon megalophyllum Mikut., Fontinalis antipyretica Hedw. and F. hypnoides Hartm. on two scales: among populations in a connected lake system (large-scale spatial genetic structure) and among individuals within populations (fine-scale spatial genetic structure). Mean genetic diversities per population were 0.138, 0.247 and 0.271, respectively, and total diversities equalled 0.223, 0.385 and 0.421, respectively. Relative differentiation levels (FST values of 0.173, 0.280 and 0.142, respectively) were significant but showed that there is a moderate amount of gene flow taking place within the lake system connected with narrow streams. Bayesian STRUCTURE analysis provided some indication that the direction of water flow influences population genetic structuring in the studied aquatic mosses. We propose that dispersal leading to gene flow in C. megalophyllum, F. antipyretica and F. hypnoides takes place both along water via connecting streams and by animal vectors, such as waterfowl. Nevertheless, the slight genetic structuring pattern along the direction of water flow suggests that dispersal of shoots or their fragments along water is a means of dispersal in these mosses. The absence of sexual reproduction and spores may have caused the observed spatial genetic structure within populations, including aggregations of similar genotypes (clones or closely related genotypes) at short distances in populations otherwise showing an isolation by distance effect. Regardless of the results pointing to the dominance of vegetative propagation, it is impossible to completely rule out the potential role of rare long-distance spore dispersal from areas where the species are fertile.