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Molecular ecology

Widespread generalist clones are associated with range and niche expansion in allopolyploids of Pacific Northwest Hawthorns (Crataegus L.).


PMID 28833842

Abstract

Range and niche expansion are commonly associated with transitions to asexuality, polyploidy and hybridity (allopolyploidy) in plants. The ability of asexual polyploids to colonize novel habitats may be due to widespread generalist clones, multiple ecologically specialized clones, or may be a neutral by-product of multiple, independent origins of asexual polyploids throughout the range. We have quantified niche size and divergence for hawthorns of the Pacific Northwest using data from herbarium vouchers with known cytotypes. We find that all polyploid niches diverge from that of the diploid range, and allopolyploids have the broadest niches. Allotetraploids have the largest niche and the widest geographic distribution. We then assessed the genetic mechanism of range expansion by surveying the ecological and geographic distribution of genotypes within each cytotype from sites in which fine-scale habitat assessments were completed. We find no isolation by either geographic or ecological distance in allopolyploids, suggesting high dispersal and colonization ability. In contrast, autotriploids and diploids show patterns of isolation by geographic distance. We also compared the geographic and ecological distributions of clonal genotypes with those of randomly drawn sites of the most widespread cytotype. We found that most clones are geographically widespread and occur in a variety of habitats. We interpret these findings to suggest that patterns of range and niche expansion in Pacific Northwest Hawthorns may stem from these widespread, ecologically generalist clones of hybrid origin.

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