Genetic diversity in an ant‐dispersed chenopod Sclerolaena diacantha

R. Peakall, I. Oliver, C. L. Turnbull, A. J. Beattie

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract Sclerolaena diacantha is a common and widespread, short‐lived chenopod of arid Australia. The diaspore contains a food mass attractive to ants and, at sites where the ant Rhytidoponera sp B is common, thousands of diaspores accumulate on the nest mounds. Bagged plants set seed, showing that it is self‐compatible. Population genetic variation was investigated at two levels: within and between sites, and within and between seed banks accumulated on the ant nests. Electrophoretic analysis of adult plants for 17 loci at 12 sites revealed nine polymorphic loci, but within sites only 6–18% of the loci were polymorphic. The values for mean gene diversity (He = 0.042) and total genetic diversity, (HT= 0.088) were lower than those recorded for most other plant species. The mean fixation index of 0.52 indicated a mixed mating system with about 70% selfing. Most of the genetic diversity was distributed within sites (Dst = 0.008) and the mean value of 0.094 for GST indicated low levels of genetic differentiation. Electrophoretic analysis of seeds from 12 ant mounds at two sites showed that genetic differentiation was three times greater between seed banks than between the sites. However, collectively the genetic diversity stored within ant mounds was similar to the total diversity within the sites. It appears that restricted ant‐dispersal and moderate inbreeding may create a local population structure that is undetected when sampling at a larger scale. Since investigations of genetic patterns on a very local scale are just beginning, there is much to learn about the evolutionary and genetic consequences of different seed flow patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-179
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian Journal of Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1993


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