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Alpine white gums show complex patterns of genetic diversity

Rene Vaillancourt
University of Tasmania

Eucalyptus urnigera at Mount Seymour (image: Rob Wiltshire)

Alex Matthews, as part of his Honours project in the School of Plant Science at UTas, used morphology and nuclear microsatellite markers to study the genetic diversity and relationships among 29

populations of two closely related species of alpine white gum, Eucalyptus gunnii and E. urnigera, using one population of the rare E. morrisbyi as a control.  The morphological analysis revealed that E. urnigera and E. gunnii were differentiated from each other, but the northern populations of E. urnigera had

affinities with E. gunnii from the central plateau of Tasmania. The microsatellite data supported these observations and also found that populations of alpine white gum on or near the Central Plateau have higher genetic diversity than the more isolated populations in the north, east and south. To resolve whether this is due to the fact that northern populations of E. urnigera and E. gunnii share a recent common ancestry or whether it is due to hybridisation, a study of chloroplast DNA variation is underway.  Nevertheless, the study showed clearly that geographically isolated populations of E. urnigera, such as those in the Weilangta Hills and on Bruny Island, are well differentiated from other populations and deserve special attention.  

Biobuzz issue thirteen, December 2010