Authors: Gamba, Diana; Muchhala, Nathan
Publication: Ecology
Year: 2021
Genera: Drymonia

Animal pollinators directly affect plant gene flow by transferring pollen grains between individuals. Pollinators with restricted mobility are predicted to limit gene flow within and among populations, whereas pollinators that fly longer distances are likely to promote genetic cohesion. These predictions, however, remain poorly tested. We examined population genetic structure and fine-scale spatial genetic structure (FSGS) in six perennial understory angiosperms in Andean cloud forests of northwestern Ecuador. Species belong to three families (Gesneriaceae, Melastomataceae, and Rubiaceae), and within each family we paired one insect-pollinated with one hummingbird-pollinated species, predicting that insect-pollinated species have greater population differentiation (as quantified with the FST statistic) and stronger FSGS (as quantified with the SP statistic) than hummingbird-pollinated species. We confirmed putative pollinators through a literature review and fieldwork, and inferred population genetic parameters with a genome-wide genotyping approach. In two of the three species pairs, insect-pollinated species had much greater (>2-fold) population-level genetic differentiation and correspondingly steeper declines in fine-scale genetic relatedness. In the Gesneriaceae pair, however, FST and SP values were similar between species and to those of the other hummingbird-pollinated plants. In this pair, the insect pollinators are euglossine bees (as opposed to small bees and flies in the other pairs), which are thought to forage over large areas, and therefore may provide similar levels of gene flow as hummingbirds. Overall, our results shed light on how different animal pollination modes influence the spatial scale of plant gene flow, suggesting that small insects strongly decrease genetic cohesion.