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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Differences in fine-scale spatial genetic structure across the distribution range of the distylous forest herb Pulmonaria officinalis (Boraginaceae)

Sofie Meeus*, Olivier Honnay and Hans Jacquemyn

Author Affiliations

Plant Conservation and Population Biology, Biology Department, University of Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 31, Heverlee, 3001, Belgium

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BMC Genetics 2013, 14:101  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-14-101

Published: 18 October 2013



Geographical ranges of plants and their pollinators do not always entirely overlap and it has been suggested that the absence of specialized pollinators at range margins may induce changes in mating systems. Because a species’ mating system is known to have a considerable effect on within-population pollen movement, the extent of fine-scale spatial genetic structure (SGS) can be expected to differ between populations located at different parts of their geographical range. To test this prediction, we compared the fine-scale SGS between two core and two disjunct populations of the distylous forest herb Pulmonaria officinalis. Because in disjunct populations of this species the heteromorphic self-incompatibility system showed relaxation in the long-styled morph, but not in the short-styled morph, we also hypothesized that the extent of fine-scale SGS and clustering differed between morphs.


Spatial autocorrelation analyses showed a significant decrease in genetic relatedness with spatial distance for both core and disjunct populations with the weakest SGS found in one of the core populations (Sp = 0.0014). No evidence of stronger SGS in the long-styled morph was found in the center of the range whereas one disjunct population showed a significantly (P = 0.029) higher SGS in the long-styled morph (SpL = 0.0070) than in the short-styled morph (SpS = 0.0044).


Consistent with previous analyses on distylous plant species, we found weak, but significant spatial genetic structure. However, the extent of SGS varied substantially between populations within regions, suggesting that population characteristics other than mating system (e.g. local pollinator assemblages, population history) may be as important in determining variation in SGS.

Fine-scale spatial genetic structure; Disjunct; Core; Mating system; Morph clustering; Spatial autocorrelation