Climatic niche and population genetic structure of mistletoes

The prevalent view about genetic structuring in parasitic plants is that host-race formation is due to varying degrees of host specificity. However, the relative importance of ecological niche divergence and host specificity remains poorly understood.

In our most recent publication (Ramírez-Barahona et al, 2017; New Phytologist 214) we analyzed the genetic structure of the widely-distributed and ecologically diverse Psittacanthus schiedeanus mistletoe complex  (Loranthaceae). These analyses suggested that the population genetic structure of the parasite is largely determined by its own climatic niche and to a lesser degree by host specificity. This indicates that the processes associated with the genetic differentiation of populations appears to be more complex than previously thought.

IMG_0574.jpgThe characteristic bright orange flowers of Psittacanthus schiedeanus in Santiago Comaltepec, Oaxaca. (photo by S Ramírez B)

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