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The influence of sea currents, past disruption of gene flow and species biology on the phylogeographical structure of coastal flowering plants

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Abstract Aim 

We investigate the geographical genetic structure of two coastal plant species, Cakile maritima Scop. (Brassicaceae) and Eryngium maritimum L. (Apiaceae), through three sea straits and along one continuous stretch of coast using amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs). The two species have a similar ecology in that they grow in sandy habitats, but differ in life-form (annual vs. perennial) and dispersability of seeds by sea water as inferred from floating experiments. The sea straits differ in their geological history and their modern current systems. The primary goal of our study was to test the hypothesis that sea straits have an influence on the geographical patterns of genetic variation at the population level. Location 

The areas around the Strait of Gibraltar, the Dardanelles, the Bosporus and the Atlantic coast of western France. Methods 

For both species we investigated AFLP variation in several populations from each area. Bayesian clustering and diversity and differentiation measures were used to analyse the genetic data. Results 

In most areas the spatial genetic structure was similar between the two species. They share the presence of distinct genetic gaps along the coast through the Strait of Gibraltar and the Bosporus, and these genetic gaps coincide with the straits. Both species show genetic continuity along the coast of western France. A distinct genetic gap was found through the Dardanelles for C. maritima but not for E. maritimum. Main conclusions 

The study shows that sea straits have an influence on the geographical patterns of genetic variation. Sea currents are inferred to cause the genetic gap through the Strait of Gibraltar. In the Bosporus and, for C. maritima, through the Dardanelles, the genetic gaps found are explained by the past closure of these two straits as well as by present-day factors. Simulations indicate that the lower differentiation of C. maritima through the Dardanelles than through the Bosporus cannot be explained by the difference in geological history of these two straits. The difference in seed dispersability between the two species is argued to be responsible for the observation that differentiation among genetic clusters is higher in E. maritimum than in C. maritima where a direct comparison is possible.
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Keywords: AFLP; Atlantic; Cakile maritima; Eryngium maritimum; Mediterranean; coastal plant species; gene flow; genetic structure; sea currents

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-07-01

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