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Yin, Mingbo; Gießler, Sabine; Griebel, Johanna and Wolinska, Justyna (2014): Hybridizing Daphnia communities from ten neighbouring lakes: spatio-temporal dynamics, local processes, gene flow and invasiveness. In: BMC Evolutionary Biology 14:80 [PDF, 1MB]

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Background In natural communities of cyclical parthenogens, rapid response to environmental change is enabled by switching between two reproduction modes. While long periods of asexual reproduction allow some clones to outcompete others, and may result in “clonal erosion”, sexual reproduction restores genetic variation in such systems. Moreover, sexual reproduction may result in the formation of interspecific hybrids. These hybrids can then reach high abundances, through asexual clonal reproduction. In the present study, we explored genetic variation in water fleas of the genus Daphnia. The focus was on the short-term dynamics within several clonal assemblages from the hybridizing Daphnia longispina complex and the impact of gene flow at small spatial scales.

Results Daphnia individuals belonged either to the parental species D. galeata and D. longispina, or to different hybrid classes, as identified by 15 microsatellite markers. The distribution and genotypic structure of parental species, but not hybrids, corresponded well with the geographical positions of the lakes. Within parental species, the genetic distance among populations of D. galeata was lower than among populations of D. longispina. Moreover, D. galeata dominance was associated with higher phosphorous load. Finally, there was no evidence for clonal erosion.

Conclusions Our results suggest that the contemporary structure of hybridizing Daphnia communities from ten nearby lakes is influenced by colonization events from neighbouring habitats as well as by environmental factors. Unlike the parental species, however, there was little evidence for successful dispersal of hybrids, which seem to be produced locally. Finally, in contrast to temporary Daphnia populations, in which a decrease in clonal diversity was sometimes detectable over a single growing season, the high clonal diversity and lack of clonal erosion observed here might result from repeated hatching of sexually produced offspring. Overall, our study provides insights into spatio-temporal dynamics in a hybridizing Daphnia species complex in a recently established lake system, and relates genetic similarities of populations to a scenario of secondary invasion enhanced by environmental factors.

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