Lower selfing rates in metallicolous populations than in non-metallicolous populations of the pseudometallophyte Noccaea caerulescens (Brassicaceae) in Southern France

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Background and Aims The pseudometallophyte Noccaea caerulescens is an excellent model to study evolutionary processes, as it grows both on normal and on heavy-metal-rich, toxic soils. The evolution and demography of populations are critically impacted by mating system and, yet, information about the N. caerulescens mating system is limited.

Methods Mean selfing rates were assessed using microsatellite loci and a robust estimation method (RMES) in five metallicolous and five non-metallicolous populations of N. caerulescens in Southern France, and this measure was replicated for two successive reproductive seasons. As a part of the study, the patterns of gene flow among populations were analysed. The mating system was then characterized at a fine spatial scale in three populations using the MLTR method on progeny arrays.

Key Results The results confirm that N. caerulescens has a mixed mating system, with selfing rates ranging from 0·2 to 0·5. Selfing rates did not vary much among populations within ecotypes, but were lower in the metallicolous than in the non-metallicolous ecotype, in both seasons. Effective population size was also lower in non-metallicolous populations. Biparental inbreeding was null to moderate. Differentiation among populations was generally high, but neither ecotype nor isolation by distance explained it.

Conclusions The consequences of higher selfing rates on adaptation are expected to be weak to moderate in non-metallicolous populations and they are expected to suffer less from inbreeding depression, compared to metallicolous populations.

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