Population structure of Primula fasciculata

Paper by Ren et al on “Population Genetic Structure and Demographic History of Primula fasciculata in Southwest China” published in Frontiers in Plant Sciences.

Abstract: Understanding the factors that drive the genetic structure of a species and its responses to past climatic changes is an important first step in modern population management. The response to the last glacial maximum (LGM) has been well studied, however, the effect of previous glaciation periods on plant demographic history is still not well studied. Here we investigated the population structure and demographic history of Primula fasciculata that widely occurs in the Hengduan Mountains and Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. We obtained genomic data for 234 samples of the species using restriction site-associated DNA (RAD) sequencing and combined approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) and species distribution modeling (SDM) to evaluate the effects of multiple glaciation periods by testing several population divergence models and demographic scenarios. The analyses of population structure showed that P. fasciculata displays a striking population structure with six groups that could be identified genetically. Our ABC modeling suggested that the current groups diverged from ancestral populations located in the eastern Hengduan Mountains after the largest glaciation occurred in the region (~ 0.8–0.5 million years ago), which is consistent with the result of SDMs. Each current group has survived in different glacial refugia during the LGM and experienced expansions and/or bottlenecks since their divergence during or across the following Quaternary glacial cycles. Our study demonstrates the usefulness of population genomics for evaluating the effects of past climatic changes in alpine plant species with shallow population structure.