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Imprint of post-glacial history in a narrowly distributed endemic spruce, Picea alcoquiana, in central Japan observed in nuclear microsatellites and organelle DNA markers

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Abstract Aim 

We aim to infer the post-glacial history of the narrowly distributed endemic spruce Picea alcoquiana in Japan, and to assess the hypothesis that the existing narrow natural range of the species has resulted from the diminution of the past natural range since the last glacial period. Location 

Mountainous forests in central Honshu Island in Japan. Methods 

We assessed the geographical patterns of genetic variation across nine populations of P. alcoquiana across its natural range using five nuclear microsatellites and polymerase chain reaction–restriction fragment length polymorphism markers for chloroplast (cp) and mitochondrial (mt) DNA. This study focuses on the genetic differentiation between northern peripherally isolated and southern core populations within the natural range of the species in central Honshu. In addition, based on diagnostic morphological traits of the cone, we used reliable macrofossil evidence to gain further insight into the past natural range of the species. Results 

Picea alcoquiana shows a level of genetic differentiation among populations (ΦST = 0.082) that was higher than the levels observed in nuclear microsatellites for other anemophilous and widespread tree species in Japan. A notable finding for the nuclear microsatellites was the loss of rare alleles and strong evidence of a recent bottleneck in the peripherally isolated populations. Analysis of molecular variance in cpDNA and mtDNA markers showed an absence of genetic differentiation between the peripherally isolated and core populations. Macrofossil evidence indicated that the past natural range of the species extended to a lower elevation and c. 135 km north of the existing peripherally isolated populations during the last glacial period (c. 28,000 yrbp). Main conclusions 

During the last glacial period, P. alcoquiana had a wider natural range in which the peripherally isolated and core populations could have been geographically continuous with each other, and effective gene flow by means of pollen and seeds might have occurred. The recent bottleneck and consequent loss of rare alleles in the peripherally isolated populations might have evolved during the diminution and retreat of the northern part of the past natural range southwards to the core area and during the subsequent separation of the peripherally isolated populations from the core area since the last glacial period.
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Keywords: Chloroplast DNA; Picea alcoquiana; core populations; last glacial period; macrofossil; mitochondrial DNA; nuclear microsatellites; peripherally isolated populations; post-glacial history

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Departments of Forest Genetics 2: Forest Vegetation, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan 3: The University Forest in Hokkaido, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Furano, Hokkaido, Japan

Publication date: 2008-07-01

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