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Population demography influences climatic niche evolution: evidence from diploid American Hordeum species (Poaceae)

Sabine S. Jakob, Christoph Heibl, Dennis Rödder, Frank R. Blattner
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Journal Article
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Abstract In this study, we explore the interplay of population demography with the evolution of ecological niches during or after speciation in Hordeum. While large populations maintain a high level of standing genetic diversity, gene flow and recombination buffers against fast alterations in ecological adaptation. Small populations harbour lower allele diversity but can more easily shift to new niches if they initially survive under changed conditions. Thus, large populations should be more conservative regarding niche changes in comparison to small populations. We used environmental niche modelling together with phylogenetic, phylogeographic and population genetic analyses to infer the correlation of population demography with changes in ecological niche dimensions in 12 diploid Hordeum species from the New World, forming four monophyletic groups. Our analyses found both shifts and conservatism in distinct niche dimensions within and among clades. Speciation due to vicariance resulted in three species with no pronounced climate niche differences, while species originating due to long-distance dispersals or otherwise encountering genetic bottlenecks mostly revealed climate niche shifts. Niche convergence among clades indicates a niche-filling pattern during the last 2 million years in South American Hordeum. We provide evidence that species, which did not encounter population reductions mainly showed ecoclimatic niche conservatism, while major niche shifts occurred in species which have undergone population bottlenecks. Our data allow the conclusion that population demography influences adaptation and niche shifts or conservatism in South American Hordeum species.

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