Plant Parentage, Pollination, and Dispersal: How DNA microsatellites have altered the landscape
Ashley, Mary V.
PublisherTaylor & Francis
MetadataShow full item record
DNA microsatellites provide plant ecologists with molecular markers precise enough to assign parentage to seeds and seedlings. This allows the exact distance and trajectory of successful pollen to be traced to characterize pollination patterns. Parentage assignment of established seedlings also allows researchers to accurately determine how far new recruits have traveled from their seed parent. This paper reviews the history and development of molecular parentage assignment in studies of native plants, as well as the limitations and constraints to this approach. This paper also reviews 53 articles published in the past 15 years that use parentage assignment to study pollination and seed dispersal in native plants. These parentage studies have overturned many common assumptions regarding pollen and seed dispersal patterns. They show that long-distance dispersal of pollen is common in both wind and animal dispersed systems, with average pollination distances commonly being hundreds of meters. The pollination neighborhood is often extremely large, and simple dispersal functions based on distance alone fail to make accurate predictions of pollination. Rather than hindering gene flow, fragmentation and isolation sometimes, and perhaps even commonly, results in increased pollination distances. Studies of seed dispersal using parentage assignment have also yielded some surprises. We now know that it may be erroneous to assume that seeds growing under the crown of a conspecific adult are growing beneath their mother, or that seed dispersal distances are more limited than pollen dispersal distances. Taken together, the studies to date demonstrate that both seed and pollen dispersal are quite complex phenomenon influenced by many ecological processes.