Spectrum of genetic diversity and networks of clonal organisms
Rozenfeld, A.F.; Arnaud-Haond, S.; Hernandez-Garcia, E.; Eguiluz, V.M.; Matias, M.A.; Serrao, E. ; Duarte, C.M.
Journal of the Royal Society Interface 4, 1093-1102 (2007)
Clonal reproduction characterizes a wide range of species including clonal plants in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and clonal microbes, such as bacteria and parasitic protozoa, with a key role in human health and ecosystem processes. Clonal organisms present a particular challenge in population genetics because, in addition to the possible existence of replicates of the same genotype in a given sample, some of the hypotheses and concepts underlying classical population genetics models are irreconcilable with clonality. The genetic structure and diversity of clonal populations was examined using a combination of new tools to analyze microsatellite data in the marine angiosperm Posidonia oceanica. These tools were based on examination of the frequency distribution of the genetic distance among ramets, termed the spectrum of genetic diversity (GDS), and of networks built on the basis of pairwise genetic distances among genets. Clonal growth and outcrossing are apparently dominant processes, whereas selfing and somatic mutations appear to be marginal, and the contribution of immigration seems to play a small role in adding genetic diversity to populations. The properties and topology of networks based on genetic distances showed a "small-world" topology, characterized by a high degree of connectivity among nodes, and a substantial amount of substructure, revealing organization in sub-families of closely related individuals. The combination of GDS and network tools proposed here helped in dissecting the influence of various evolutionary processes in shaping the intra-population genetic structure of the clonal organism investigated; these therefore represent promising analytical tools in population genetics.