Theoretical and empirical comparisons of molecular diversity in selfing and outcrossing plants have primarily focused on long-term consequences of differences in mating system (between species). However, improving our understanding of the causes of mating system evolution requires ecological and genetic studies of the early stages of mating system transition. Here, we examine nuclear and chloroplast DNA sequences and microsatellite variation in a large sample of populations of Arabidopsis lyrata from the Great Lakes region of Eastern North American that show intra- and interpopulation variation in the degree of self-incompatibility and realized outcrossing rates. Populations show strong geographic clustering irrespective of mating system, suggesting that selfing either evolved multiple times or has spread to multiple genetic backgrounds. Diversity is reduced in selfing populations, but not to the extent of the severe loss of variation expected if selfing evolved due to selection for reproductive assurance in connection with strong founder events. The spread of self-compatibility in this region may have been favored as colonization bottlenecks following glaciation or migration from Europe reduced standing levels of inbreeding depression. However, our results do not suggest a single transition to selfing in this system, as has been suggested for some other species in the Brassicaceae.
© 2010 The Author(s). Evolution© 2010 The Society for the Study of Evolution.