Mating patterns and spatial distribution of conspecific neighbours in the Mediterranean shrub Myrtus communis (Myrtaceae)
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- González-Varo, J.P., Albaladejo, R.G. & Aparicio, A. Plant Ecol (2009) 203: 207. doi:10.1007/s11258-008-9534-7
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Mate abundance is one of the most important sources of variation in plant mating systems. We examined within-population heterogeneity in the pollen pool at two spatial scales (sites and plants), and investigated the mating pattern variation in Myrtus communis under diverse situations of conspecific neighbourhood, using allozyme electrophoresis of naturally pollinated progeny arrays. For mating analyses, plants sampled were classified into four neighbourhood groups (from high to low) based on the local density around them and the distance to their nearest neighbour. The pollen pool was much more genetically heterogeneous among mother plants (~21%) than among sites (~2%), probably because of the high levels of selfing found (average s = 0.65). Outcrossing rates differed significantly among neighbourhood groups and showed a marked trend towards higher values from the lowest (tm = 0.26) to the highest (tm = 0.45) degree of conspecific aggregation. However, the lowest levels of biparental inbreeding and correlated paternity were found in the most isolated group of plants, indicating that these plants crossed with more and less genetically related fathers. Our study provides a clear demonstration of positive correlation between conspecific aggregation and the outcrossing rates. We discuss the ecological implications of these results in the context of Mediterranean ecosystems.