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Genetics. Mar 2000; 154(3): 1309–1321.
PMCID: PMC1461003

Effects of colonization processes on genetic diversity: differences between annual plants and tree species.

Abstract

Tree species are striking for their high within-population diversity and low among-population differentiation for nuclear genes. In contrast, annual plants show much more differentiation for nuclear genes but much less diversity than trees. The usual explanation for this difference is that pollen flow, and therefore gene flow, is much higher for trees. This explanation is problematic because it relies on equilibrium hypotheses. Because trees have very recently recolonized temperate areas, they have experienced many foundation events, which usually reduce within-population diversity and increase differentiation. Only extremely high levels of gene flow could counterbalance these successive founder effects. We develop a model to study the impact of life cycle of forest trees, in particular of the length of their juvenile phase, on genetic diversity and differentiation during the glacial period and the following colonization period. We show that both a reasonably high level of pollen flow and the life-cycle characteristics of trees are needed to explain the observed structure of genetic diversity. We also show that gene flow and life cycle both have an impact on maternally inherited cytoplasmic genes, which are characterized both in trees and annual species by much less diversity and much more differentiation than nuclear genes.

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Selected References

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