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New Phytol. 2012 Mar;193(4):1088-97. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2011.03999.x. Epub 2011 Dec 21.

High genetic diversity in a remote island population system: sans sex.

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Environmental Science Program, Ramapo College, Mahwah, NJ 07430, USA.


It has been proposed that long-distance dispersal of mosses to the Hawaiian Islands rarely occurs and that the Hawaiian population of the allopolyploid peat moss Sphagnum palustre probably resulted from a single dispersal event. Here, we used microsatellites to investigate whether the Hawaiian population of the dioicous S. palustre had a single founder and to compare its genetic diversity to that found in populations of S. palustre in other regions. The genetic diversity of the Hawaiian population is comparable to that of larger population systems. Several lines of evidence, including a lack of sporophytes and an apparently restricted natural distribution, suggest that sexual reproduction is absent in the Hawaiian plants. In addition, all samples of Hawaiian S. palustre share a genetic trait rare in other populations. Time to most recent ancestor (TMRCA) analysis indicates that the Hawaiian population was probably founded 49-51 kyr ago. It appears that all Hawaiian plants of S. palustre descend from a single founder via vegetative propagation. The long-term viability of this clonal population coupled with the development of significant genetic diversity suggests that vegetative propagation in a moss does not necessarily preclude evolutionary success in the long term.

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