, Volume 104, Issue 1, pp 93-100

Field and genetic studies testing optimal outcrossing in Agave schottii, a long-lived clonal plant

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Abstract

In thisstudy we combine field experiments, designed to test the predictions of optimal outcrossing theory in Agave schottii, with molecular genetic studies, using RAPD (random amplified polymorphic DNA), polymerase chain reaction to assess the underlying genetic hypothesis of optimal outcrossing theory. Initially, 48 “females” of A. schottii were hand-pollinated with pollen collected from 1 m, 10 m, 100 m, and 2500 m distances. Each female received all four distance treatments. Additionally, a subset of the focal females and their pollen donors were used in an analysis of genetic similarity across the four distances. Results of hand-pollinations showed that crosses of 1 m had significantly lower seed set than 10 m and 100 m crosses. Crosses of 2500 m had intermediate seed set. Combined relative fitness was significantly lower for 1 m crosses compared to 10 m crosses, while 100 m and 2500 m crosses were intermediate. Thus, A. schottii experiences inbreeding depression and a trend toward outbreeding depression. Genetic analyses showed a similar pattern: individuals 1 m apart had on average higher genetic similarity (proportion of bands shared) than individuals separated by greater distances, with a trend toward lower genetic similarity for plants located 2500 m distant. The observed spatial genetic patterns are likely maintained by the combined effects of clonal reproduction, clone longevity, limited seed dispersal and the substantial number of inbred progeny produced, counteracting distant allele transfer which tends to reduce population genetic structure. The correspondence between our ecological and genetic results indicates that RAPD markers are useful tools for assessing ecological phenomena.