High genetic diversity and low population structure in Porter's sunflower (Helianthus porteri)


Granite outcrops in the southeastern United States are rare and isolated habitats that support edaphically controlled communities dominated by herbaceous plants. They harbor rare and endemic species that are expected to have low genetic variability and high population structure due to small population sizes and their disjunct habitat. We test this expectation for an annual outcrop endemic, Helianthus porteri (Porter's sunflower). Contrary to expectation, H. porteri has relatively high genetic diversity (He = 0.681) and relatively low genetic structure among the native populations (FST = 0.077) when compared to 5 other Helianthus species (N = 288; 18 expressed sequence tag-SSR markers). These findings suggest greater gene flow than expected. The potential for gene flow is supported by the analysis of transplant populations established with propagules from a common source in 1959. One population established close to a native population (1.5 km) at the edge of the natural range is genetically similar to and shares rare alleles with the adjacent native population and is distinct from the central source population. In contrast, a transplant population established north of the native range has remained similar to the source population. The relatively high genetic diversity and low population structure of this species, combined with the long-term success of transplanted populations, bode well for its persistence as long as the habitat persists. © 2013 The American Genetic Association.

Publication Title

Journal of Heredity