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Int J Parasitol. 2006 Jan;36(1):115-22. Epub 2005 Oct 3.

What constitutes a population for the plant parasitic nematode Globodera pallida in its native area (Peru)?

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  • 1UMR INRA-ENSAR BiO3P, Domaine de la Motte, B.P. 35327, 35653 Le Rheu Cedex, France.


Although numerous species are distributed in discrete populations easily recognised by geographical barriers, continuous populations are a common feature of plants or marine organisms. This is particularly true for soil organisms as their habitat is continuous and their range cannot easily be assessed as they are buried below ground. In the case of organisms for which standard methods such as Capture/Mark/Recapture cannot be used, population genetics provide a straightforward approach to delimitate populations. In this study, we have pursued this topic with a soil-dwelling nematode (Globodera pallida), which parasitises potato roots and is indigenous to South America. Potential barriers to gene flow were identified using the analysis of the F(ST)/(1-F(ST)) ratio against geographical distance and spatial autocorrelation combined with model-based clustering algorithm. Inside regions, neither genetic differentiation nor isolation by distance (IBD) occur among fields less than 50 km distant. We hypothesise that the large amount of gene flow revealed by the absence of genetic structure of this organism could be due to large passive dispersion inside an agronomic area where G. pallida has a continuous distribution and is found at high density. The first evidence of genetic differentiation appeared when a field was separated from others by an area free of farms (where G. pallida is absent or rare). Among regions, a high genetic structure coupled with an IBD pattern occurs as the consequences of the limitations of passive dispersal across deep valleys or high mountains. To our knowledge, this is the first study identifying the spatial limit of a population for a plant nematode parasite.

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