Limited seed dispersal shapes fine-scale spatial genetic structure in a Neotropical dioecious large-seeded palm

Sebastián Escobar, Yves Vigouroux, Jordan Karubian, Leila Zekraoui, Henrik Balslev, Rommel Montúfar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Seed and pollen dispersal contribute to gene flow and shape the genetic patterns of plants over fine spatial scales. We inferred fine-scale spatial genetic structure (FSGS) and estimated realized dispersal distances in Phytelephas aequatorialis, a Neotropical dioecious large-seeded palm. We aimed to explore how seed and pollen dispersal shape this genetic pattern in a focal population. For this purpose, we genotyped 138 seedlings and 99 adults with 20 newly developed microsatellite markers. We tested if rodent-mediated seed dispersal has a stronger influence than insect-mediated pollen dispersal in shaping FSGS. We also tested if pollen dispersal was influenced by the density of male palms around mother palms in order to further explore this ecological process in large-seeded plants. Rodent-mediated dispersal of these large seeds occurred mostly over short distances (mean 34.76 ± 34.06 m) while pollen dispersal distances were two times higher (mean 67.91 ± 38.29 m). The spatial extent of FSGS up to 35 m and the fact that seed dispersal did not increase the distance at which male alleles disperse suggest that spatially limited seed dispersal is the main factor shaping FSGS and contributes only marginally to gene flow within the population. Pollen dispersal distances depended on the density of male palms, decreasing when individuals show a clumped distribution and increasing when they are scattered. Our results show that limited seed dispersal mediated by rodents shapes FSGS in P. aequatorialis, while more extensive pollen dispersal accounts for a larger contribution to gene flow and may maintain high genetic diversity. Abstract in Spanish is available with online material.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-172
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation.


  • Arecaceae
  • Phytelephas aequatorialis
  • W Ecuador
  • genetic diversity
  • microsatellite markers
  • rodent dispersal


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