JSU Student Symposium 2021

Post-Pleistocene Distribution of Arundinaria gigantea in Northeastern Alabama


Post-Pleistocene Distribution of Arundinaria gigantea in Northeastern Alabama



Faculty Mentor

Jimmy Triplett, Biology


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North American biomes shifted south during glacial intervals. One of the affected species was Arundinaria gigantea (River Cane), at that time occupying a narrow band along the Gulf Coast. As the climate warmed, A. gigantea moved back throughout the southeast. Arundinaria gigantea propagates primarily through rhizomes, and there is no evidence of long-distance seed dispersal. Barriers to spread are thin soils and dry uplands, restricting movement to river valleys, and the significant barrier presented by the Appalachian Mountains. We hypothesized that one lineage of river cane spread north along the Mississippi/Ohio/Tennessee system into northern Alabama while a second lineage followed the Alabama/Coosa system into northeastern Alabama. These watersheds are widely separated, and where they meet, the Appalachians intervene. Since the lineages may have been isolated for over 10,000 years, we predict genetic differences between two meta-populations. Samples were taken from multiple clones from six populations of cane in the Tennessee River Valley and eight populations in the Coosa watershed. Samples were analyzed using DNA fingerprints derived from amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs), which recovered 288 polymorphic gene loci. AFLP data revealed substantial genetic variation among populations but no correlation with the hypothesized lineages or any geographical features. Instead, local populations had a high proportion of unique alleles consistent with clonal reproduction and spatial fragmentation.


student research, biology


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Post-Pleistocene Distribution of Arundinaria gigantea in Northeastern Alabama