Recent divergence, intercontinental dispersal and shared polymorphism are shaping the genetic structure of amphi-Atlantic peatmoss populations.
Several lines of evidence suggest that recent long-distance dispersal may have been important in the evolution of intercontinental distribution ranges of bryophytes. However, the absolute rate of intercontinental migration and its relative role in the development of certain distribution ranges is still poorly understood. To this end, the genetic structure of intercontinental populations of six peatmoss species showing an amphi-Atlantic distribution was investigated using microsatellite markers. Methods relying on the coalescent were applied (IM and MIGRATE) to understand the evolution of this distribution pattern in peatmosses. Intercontinental populations of the six peatmoss species were weakly albeit significantly differentiated (average F(ST) = 0.104). This suggests that the North Atlantic Ocean is acting as a barrier to gene flow even in bryophytes adapted to long-range dispersal. The im analysis suggested a relatively recent split of intercontinental populations dating back to the last two glacial periods (9000-289,000 years ago). In contrast to previous hypotheses, analyses indicated that both ongoing migration and ancestral polymorphism are important in explaining the intercontinental genetic similarity of peatmoss populations, but their relative contribution varies with species. Migration rates were significantly asymmetric towards America suggesting differential extinction of genotypes on the two continents or invasion of the American continent by European lineages. These results indicate that low genetic divergence of amphi-Atlantic populations is a general pattern across numerous flowering plants and bryophytes. However, in bryophytes, ongoing intercontinental gene flow and retained shared ancestral polymorphism must both be considered to explain the genetic similarity of intercontinental populations.
Szövényi, P; Terracciano, S; Ricca, M; Giordano, S; Shaw, AJ
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