Genetic structure of sympatric sexually and parthenogenetically
reproducing population of Chara canescens (Charophyta)
ISRN Ecology, 2011:501838, 1–13 (2011)
Individuals that reproduce parthenogenetically do not have to produce males and can therefore produce twice as many female offspring. With this twofold reproduction advantage of asexual reproduction, the question of how sex persists in the short term remains unresolved. In the dioecious charophyte Chara canescens, both parthenogenetically reproducing females and sexually reproducing females and males occur sympatrically at only one site in Europe: Neusiedler See-Seewinkel (Austria). By means of four nuclear species-specific microsatellite loci, we examined the interaction between coexisting sexuals and parthenogens by analysing the population structure and gene flow between both reproduction systems. Using a Bayesian assignment method, we found that the sites encompassed two genetically distinct clusters of individuals. The first cluster included genotypes of sexual individuals, which are genetically distinct from a second cluster which included parthenogenetic individuals and few sexually
reproducing males, which are genetically identical to the parthenogenetic individuals. However, an analysis of the population genetic structure found no differences with respect to genotypic variation, clonal diversity, and population differentiation between the sympatric parthenogenetically and the sexually reproducing populations. The results indicated that the parthenogenetic individuals cannot outcompete the sexually reproducing individuals.