Humboldtia brunonis (Fabaceae, Caesalpinioideae) is a dominant self-incompatible ant-plant or myrmecophyte, growing as an understorey tree in high-density patches. It is endemic to the biodiversity hotspot of the southern Western Ghats of India and, besides ants, harbours many endemic invertebrate taxa, such as bees that pollinate it as well as arboreal earthworms, within swollen hollow stem internodes called domatia. Using inter simple sequence repeat (ISSR) markers, three geographically separated populations were found to be multiclonal, characterized by high levels of clonal diversity. Values for the Simpson diversity index ranged between 0.764 and 0.964, and for Fager’s evenness index between 0.00 and 0.036 for neighbourhoods within populations. This myrmecophyte was found to combine sexual recruitment (66.7%) and clonal production (33.3%) as methods of reproduction. Moderate amounts of genetic diversity at the species level were observed, with 52.63% polymorphism, and moderate values of Shannon’s diversity index (0.1895) as well as of Nei’s gene diversity (0.1186). In each population, observed genotypic diversity was significantly lower than expected, indicating significant genetic structure. Neighbour-joining trees demonstrated that Agumbe, which is the most northern population examined and geographically twice as far away from the other two populations, grouped separately and with larger bootstrap support from a larger cluster consisting of the Sampaji and Solaikolli populations, which are closer to each other geographically. Some neighbourhoods within each population showed spatial genetic structure even at small spatial scales of < 5 m. A combination of clonality and short-distance pollen movement by small pollinating bees (Braunsapis puangensis) coupled with primary ballistic seed dispersal, and possible secondary seed dispersal by rodents, may contribute to spatial genetic structure at such small scales. The clonality of H. brunonis may be a factor that contributes to its dominance in Western Ghat forests where it supports a rich diversity of invertebrate fauna.
Volume 45, 2020
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