Population genetic response to microsite ecological stress in wild barley, Hordeum spontaneum

Edward D. Owuor, Tzion Fahima, Avigdor Beiles, Abraham Korol, Eviatar Nevo

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Genetic diversity was studied in six subpopulations (a total of 60 individuals) of wild barley, Hordeum spontaneum, the progenitor of cultivated barley, sampled from six stations located along a transect of 300 m across the two opposing slopes of 'Evolution Canyon', a Mediterranean microsite at Lower Nahal Oren, Mt Carmel. The two opposing slopes are separated by between 100 and 400 m and designated SFS (South-Facing Slope) and NFS (North-Facing Slope) with each having three equidistant test stations. The SFS, which receives up to 300% more solar radiation, is drier, ecologically more heterogeneous, fluctuating, and more stressful than the NFS. Analysis of 12 RAPD primers, representing a total of 51 putative loci, revealed a significant inter- and intraslope variation in RAPD band polymorphism. A significantly higher proportion of polymorphic RAPD loci was found amongst the subpopulations on the SFS (mean P = 0.909) than on the NFS (mean P = 0.682), on the basis of the presence and absence of 22 strong bands. Polymorphism generally increased upwards from the bottom to the top of the SFS (0.636, 0.773, 0.955) and NFS (0.409, 0.500, 0.545), respectively. Gametic phase disequilibria estimates, D, revealed SFS and NFS unique predominant combinations which sharply differentiated the two slopes and indicated that there is differential interslope selection favouring slope-specific multilocus combinations of alleles, or blocks of genes over tens to hundreds of meters. This suggests that selection overrides migration. RAPD polymorphism appears to parallel allozyme diversity which is climatically adaptive and driven by natural selection in the same subpopulations at the microsite.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1177-1187
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1997


  • Environmental stress
  • Microclimate ecology
  • Population genetics
  • RAPD
  • Wild barley Hordeum spontaneum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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