Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Suzanne Koptur

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Michael Ross

Third Advisor's Name

Eric Menges

Fourth Advisor's Name

Javier Francisco-Ortega

Fifth Advisor's Name

Tim Collins

Date of Defense



A plant’s reproductive biology exerts a significant influence on both population persistence within changing environments and successful establishment of new populations. However, the interaction between extrinsic (i.e. ecological) and intrinsic (i.e. genetic) factors also is an important driver of demographic performance for plant populations. It is light of this that I performed a multidisciplinary investigation of the breeding system, seed and seedling establishment dynamics, and population genetic structure of the endangered Caribbean vine Ipomoea microdactyla Griseb. (Convolvulaceae). The results from the breeding system study show individuals from Florida, USA and Andros Island, Bahamas to be self-incompatible. Plants from the two regions are cross-compatible but there is evidence for outbreeding depression in their progeny. Significant regional differences were found in floral traits and progeny traits that suggests incipient speciation for the Florida populations. The results from the seed and seedling establishment dynamics experiment demonstrate that the restoration of small populations in Florida via seed and seedling augmentation is a successful strategy. The vi demographic performance of the outplanted individuals was driven significantly by ecological factors (e.g. herbivory) rather than by genetic factors which emphasizes that the ecological context is very important for successful restoration attempts. The results from the population genetic study using an analysis of molecular variation (AMOVA) reveal significant differences in genetic variation among individuals from Florida, Andros, and Cuba. A Bayesian analysis of population genetic structuring coincided with the previous AMOVA results among the three regions. The Mantel test indicated significant ‘isolation by distance’ for these regional populations implying restricted gene flow over relatively short distances. Overall, the Florida populations had the lowest measures of genetic diversity which is most likely due to the effects of both colonization founder events and habitat fragmentation. The results of my study highlight the value of performing multidisciplinary studies in relation to species conservation as knowledge of both extrinsic and intrinsic factors can best guide decisions for species preservation.



Included in

Biology Commons



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