Multi-level patterns of genetic structure and isolation by distance in the widespread plant Mimulus guttatus

Alexander D Twyford, Edgar L.Y. Wong, Jannice Friedman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An understanding of genetic structure is essential for answering many questions in population genetics. However, complex population dynamics and scale-dependent processes can make it difficult to detect if there are distinct genetic clusters present in natural populations. Inferring discrete population structure is particularly challenging in the presence of continuous genetic variation such as isolation by distance. Here, we use the plant species Mimulus guttatus as a case study for understanding genetic structure at three spatial scales. We use reduced-representation sequencing and marker-based genotyping to understand dispersal dynamics and to characterise genetic structure. Our results provide insight into the spatial scale of genetic structure in a widespread plant species, and demonstrate how dispersal affects spatial genetic variation at the local, regional, and range-wide scale. At a fine-spatial scale, we show dispersal is rampant with little evidence of spatial genetic structure within populations. At a regional-scale, we show continuous differentiation driven by isolation by distance over hundreds of kilometres, with broad geographic genetic clusters that span major barriers to dispersal. Across Western North America, we observe geographic genetic structure and the genetic signature of multiple postglacial recolonization events, with historical gene flow linking isolated populations. Our genetic analyses show M. guttatus is highly dispersive and maintains large metapopulations with high intrapopulation variation. This high diversity and dispersal confounds the inference of genetic structure, with multi-level sampling and spatially-explicit analyses required to understand population history.  
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-239
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Early online date8 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Multi-level patterns of genetic structure and isolation by distance in the widespread plant Mimulus guttatus'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this