Heer, Katrin, Kalko, Elisabeth K. V., Albrecht, Larissa, García-Villacorta, Roosevelt, Staeps, Felix C., Herre, Edward Allen, and Dick, Christopher W. 2015. "Spatial Scales of Genetic Structure in Free-Standing and Strangler Figs (Ficus, Moraceae) Inhabiting Neotropical Forests." PloS One 10 (7):1-18. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0133581
Wind-borne pollinating wasps (Agaonidae) can transport fig (Ficus sp., Moraceae) pollen over enormous distances (> 100 km). Because of their extensive breeding areas, Neotropical figs are expected to exhibit weak patterns of genetic structure at local and regional scales. We evaluated genetic structure at the regional to continental scale (Panama, Costa Rica, and Peru) for the free-standing fig species Ficus insipida. Genetic differentiation was detected only at distances > 300 km (Jost´s Dest = 0.68 ± 0.07 & FST = 0.30 ± 0.03 between Mesoamerican and Amazonian sites) and evidence for phylogeographic structure (RST>permuted RST) was only significant in comparisons between Central and South America. Further, we assessed local scale spatial genetic structure (SGS, d = 8 km) in Panama and developed an agent-based model parameterized with data from F. insipida to estimate minimum pollination distances, which determine the contribution of pollen dispersal on SGS. The local scale data for F. insipida was compared to SGS data collected for an additional free-standing fig, F. yoponensis (subgenus Pharmacosycea), and two species of strangler figs, F. citrifolia and F. obtusifolia (subgenus Urostigma) sampled in Panama. All four species displayed significant SGS (mean Sp = 0.014 ± 0.012). Model simulations indicated that most pollination events likely occur at distances > > 1 km, largely ruling out spatially limited pollen dispersal as the determinant of SGS in F. insipida and, by extension, the other fig species. Our results are consistent with the view that Ficus develops fine-scale SGS primarily as a result of localized seed dispersal and/or clumped seedling establishment despite extensive long-distance pollen dispersal. We discuss several ecological and life history factors that could have species- or subgenus-specific impacts on the genetic structure of Neotropical figs.