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Local genetic structure in a North American epiphytic lichen, Ramalina menziesii (Ramalinaceae)

Local genetic structure in a North American epiphytic lichen, Ramalina menziesii (Ramalinaceae)

American Journal of Botany 95(5): 568-576

Epiphytic lichens possess unique life history traits that can have conflicting effects on genetic structure: symbiotic mutualism between a fungus with its algal or cyanobacterial photobiont, association with a host plant, and ability to reproduce sexually and asexually. Our study species, Ramalina menziesii, has small ascospores that can facilitate long-distance gene movement, and it is capable of clonal reproduction. The goals of this study are to test whether different haplotypes were differentially distributed across host plant species, to look for evidence of asexual vs. sexual reproduction, and to assess the local genetic structure of the population. We sampled individuals from multiple trees of three oak species in four lichen subpopulations within a savanna ecosystem. Using DNA sequence data from four fungal nuclear loci, we found no tendency for host specialization. Alleles were randomly distributed across subpopulations. The frequency of multilocus genotypes was consistent with a randomly mating population. Sexual reproduction involving relichenization appeared to be the predominant mode of reproduction of R. menziesii at this study site. We found no significant local genetic structure suggesting widespread gene flow at the local scale. The genetic structure of this lichen is comparable to that of widely distributed epiphytic plants.

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Accession: 054151534

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PMID: 21632383

DOI: 10.3732/ajb.2007024

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