Molecular divergence in tropical tree populations occupying environmental mosaics


  • Data deposited at Dryad: doi: 10.5061/dryad.7r0d5

Correspondence: Ivan Scotti, INRA UMR 0745 EcoFoG (‘Ecologie des Forêts de Guyane’), Campus Agronomique, BP709 – 97387 Kourou, French Guiana, France. Tel.: +594 594 329274; fax: +594 594 324302; e-mail:


Unveiling the genetic basis of local adaptation to environmental variation is a major goal in molecular ecology. In rugged landscapes characterized by environmental mosaics, living populations and communities can experience steep ecological gradients over very short geographical distances. In lowland tropical forests, interspecific divergence in edaphic specialization (for seasonally flooded bottomlands and seasonally dry terra firme soils) has been proven by ecological studies on adaptive traits. Some species are nevertheless capable of covering the entire span of the gradient; intraspecific variation for adaptation to contrasting conditions may explain the distribution of such ecological generalists. We investigated whether local divergence happens at small spatial scales in two stands of Eperua falcata (Fabaceae), a widespread tree species of the Guiana Shield. We investigated Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP) and sequence divergence as well as spatial genetic structure (SGS) at four genes putatively involved in stress response and three genes with unknown function. Significant genetic differentiation was observed among sub-populations within stands, and eight SNP loci showed patterns compatible with disruptive selection. SGS analysis showed genetic turnover along the gradients at three loci, and at least one haplotype was found to be in repulsion with one habitat. Taken together, these results suggest genetic differentiation at small spatial scale in spite of gene flow. We hypothesize that heterogeneous environments may cause molecular divergence, possibly associated to local adaptation in E. falcata.