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Fossil and Genetic History of a Pinyon Pine (Pinus Edulis) Isolate

Bentancourt, Julio L., Schuster, William S., Mitton, Jeffry B., Anderson, R. Scott
Ecology 1991 v.72 no.5 pp. 1685-1697
Neotoma, Pinus edulis, alleles, electrophoresis, fossils, founder effect, genetic variation, heterozygosity, loci, paleoecology, pollen, population growth, population size, trees, Colorado
The most isolated northern stand of Colorado pinyon pine (Pinus edulis) at Owl Canyon, Colorado, USA has a broad and flat size class distribution common to population expansions, with the largest and oldest trees near the center of the grove. Analyses of fossil packrat (Neotoma sp.) middens within the grove indicate that the stand originated by long—distance dispersal rather than by vicariance, a distinction seldom possible because of the unknown or incomplete histories of such isolated populations. Our 5000—yr pollen and macrofossil record suggests that pinyon pine colonized the site sometime between 1290 and 420 yr BP, the latter age corresponding to the oldest tree in the stand. Electrophoretic data from living trees show that this colonization was not attended by typical founder effects predicted by theory or observed for other known founder events. Despite its isolation, recent founding, and probable long—distance origin, the Owl Canyon stand has not suffered significant losses in genetic variation relative to likely source populations. Large initial population size, multiple founding events, rapid population growth, or selection favoring heterozygous genotypes could all explain the high heterozygosity and only slightly reduced polymorphism and number of alleles per locus found in the Owl Canyon stand. These results demonstrate the genetic complexity of founder events and the utility of blending complementary approaches such as paleoecology and genetics to better understand the population biology of peripheral isolates.