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Sci Rep. 2015 Oct 23;5:15618. doi: 10.1038/srep15618.

Great influence of geographic isolation on the genetic differentiation of Myriophyllum spicatum under a steep environmental gradient.

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National Field Station of Freshwater Ecosystem of Liangzi Lake, College of Life Sciences, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, PR China.


Understanding how natural processes affect population genetic structures is an important issue in evolutionary biology. One effective method is to assess the relative importance of environmental and geographical factors in the genetic structure of populations. In this study, we examined the spatial genetic variation of thirteen Myriophyllum spicatum populations from the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) and adjacent highlands (Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, YGP) by using microsatellite loci and environmental and geographical factors. Bioclim layers, hydrological properties and elevation were considered as environmental variables and reduced by principal component analysis. The genetic isolation by geographic distance (IBD) was tested by Mantel tests and the relative importance of environmental variables on population genetic differentiation was determined by a partial Mantel test and multiple matrix regression with randomization (MMRR). Two genetic clusters corresponding to the QTP and YGP were identified. Both tests and MMRR revealed a significant and strong correlation between genetic divergence and geographic isolation under the influence of environmental heterogeneity at the overall and finer spatial scales. Our findings suggested the dominant role of geography on the evolution of M. spicatum under a steep environmental gradient in the alpine landscape as a result of dispersal limitation and genetic drift.

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