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Contrasting genetic responses to population fragmentation in a coevolving fig and fig wasp across a mainland–island archipelago

Authors

  • Min Liu,

    1. School of Resources and Environmental Sciences, Tiantong National Station of Forest Ecosystem, Shanghai Key Lab for Urban Ecological Processes and Eco-Restoration, East China Normal University, China
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  • Jian Zhang,

    1. School of Resources and Environmental Sciences, Tiantong National Station of Forest Ecosystem, Shanghai Key Lab for Urban Ecological Processes and Eco-Restoration, East China Normal University, China
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  • Yan Chen,

    1. Ecological Security and Protection Key laboratory of Sichuan Province, Mianyang Normal University, Mianyang, China
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  • Stephen G. Compton,

    1. Faculty of Biological Sciences, School of Biology, University of Leeds, UK
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  • Xiao-Yong Chen

    Corresponding author
    • School of Resources and Environmental Sciences, Tiantong National Station of Forest Ecosystem, Shanghai Key Lab for Urban Ecological Processes and Eco-Restoration, East China Normal University, China
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Correspondence: Xiao-Yong Chen, Fax: 86 21 5434 1225; E-mails: xychen@des.ecnu.edu.cn; xychens@hotmail.com

Abstract

Interacting species of pollinator–host systems, especially the obligate ones, are sensitive to habitat fragmentation, due to the nature of mutual dependence. Comparative studies of genetic structure can provide insights into how habitat fragmentation contributes to patterns of genetic divergence among populations of the interacting species. In this study, we used microsatellites to analyse genetic variation in Chinese populations of a typical mutualistic system – Ficus pumila and its obligate pollinator Wiebesia sp. 1 – in a naturally fragmented landscape. The plants and wasps showed discordant patterns of genetic variation and geographical divergence. There was no significant positive relationship in genetic diversity between the two species. Significant isolation-by-distance (IBD) patterns occurred across the populations of F. pumila and Wiebesia sp. 1 as whole, and IBD also occurred among island populations of the wasps, but not the plants. However, there was no significant positive relationship in genetic differentiation between them. The pollinator populations had significantly lower genetic variation in small habitat patches than in larger patches, and three island pollinator populations showed evidence of a recent bottleneck event. No effects of patch size or genetic bottlenecks were evident in the plant populations. Collectively, the results indicate that, in more fragmented habitats, the pollinators, but not the plants, have experienced reduced genetic variation. The contrasting patterns have multiple potential causes, including differences in longevity and hence number of generations experiencing fragmentation; different dispersal patterns, with the host's genes dispersed as seeds as well as a result of pollen dispersal via the pollinator; asymmetrical responses to fluctuations in partner populations; and co-existence of a rare second pollinating wasp on some islands. These results indicate that strongly interdependent species may respond in markedly different ways to habitat fragmentation.

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