Fine-scale spatial structure of genets and sexes in the dioecious plant Dioscorea japonica, which disperses by both bulbils and seeds

Research paper by Inoue Mizuki, Kiyoshi Ishida, Naoki Tani, Yoshihiko Tsumura

Indexed on: 12 Jun '10Published on: 12 Jun '10Published in: Evolutionary Ecology


To understand the evolution of clonal reproduction and the diversity of clonal plants, it is necessary to clarify the characteristics of each clonal habit. There has been little research on whether bulbils alter spatial genetic structure (SGS) because of the lack of connection to maternal ramets. We used simple-sequence-repeat (SSR) markers to determine the fine-scale SGS of the dioecious plant Dioscorea japonica, which disperses both as bulbils and as seeds. We also evaluated the contributions of sexual and clonal reproduction and tested for spatial sex segregation (SSS). We discovered 111 genets from 394 ramets in a 2.8-ha plot. Genotypic richness (R = 0.28) and clonal diversity (Simpson’s D = 0.94, Fager’s E = 0.90) were high. We did not find SSS, suggesting that the population does not suffer from a shortage of mating pairs due to clonal reproduction. The Sp values revealed moderate SGS at the genet level (Sp = 0.013–0.014), and the genets intermingled at a local scale. Significant SGS at the ramet level showed that ramets within the same genet tended to aggregate. We also found a skewed clonal spatial distribution. The spatial extent of genets was positively correlated with the number of ramets within a genet. The contribution of bulbil production to the variance of parent–offspring gene dispersal was about one–fifth the contribution from sexual reproduction. These results suggest that the dispersal via bulbils affects the SGS in D. japonica, although its contribution to gene dispersal is small compared to the contribution of sexual reproduction.