Graduate Fellow

Do selfers have greater habitat diversity in their range than outcrossers?

PI(s): Alannie-Grace Grant (University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh,PA))
Start Date: 15-Sep-2014
End Date: 4-Oct-2014
Keywords: mating systems, biogeography, ecological niche modeling, maximum likelihood

Dispersal, establishment and niche characteristics, the biotic and abiotic conditions necessary for species persistence, are considered central factors in determining species range size. For many plant species seed dispersal is often a stochastic event that can result dispersal beyond the species range. If dispersed seeds lack adaptations to survive in these new sites, they will fail to establish a viable population. One key adaptation related new habitat colonization and an increased likelihood of species range expansion is the ability to autonomously self-fertilize (Baker’s law). Autonomous selfing, an extreme form of assortative mating, may limit gene flow from maladapted populations and accelerate the rate of adaptation to the novel habitat while allowing successful reproduction in the absence of pollinators or mates. Together, these effects of autonomous selfing suggest its key role in species distribution: selfers are predicted to have greater range sizes and occupy a greater diversity of niche habitats relative to outcrossers. With NESCent graduate fellowship support, I propose to use data compiled by the Baker’s law working group to compare sister taxa with contrasting mating systems and determine if selfing taxa occupy greater ranges and have higher heterogeneity within their ranges. I will employ niche modeling approaches, MAXENT and ENFA, to quantify differences in range and habitat types. Since many anthropogenic activities are altering species’ environments, understanding factors that influence species’ distributions may be key in conservation efforts. Further, species ranges dynamics likely have significant evolutionary consequences for rates of population differentiation, speciation, or extinction.