Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

E. E. C. Clebsch

Committee Members

Frank McCormick, Gary L. Walker, Gary F. McCracken


Genetic structure of the two known populations of Ruth's golden aster, Pityopsis ruthii (Small) Small, was determined. Pityopsis ruthii is a rare, endemic plant species restricted to exposed phyllite and graywacke rock outcrops in the flooding zones of the Hiwassee and Ocoee River drainages in Polk County, Tennessee. There are an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 P. ruthii plants on the Hiwassee and ~600 on the Ocoee River. Patterns of variation at three enzyme loci were examined. Two loci, Pgm-2 and Prx-1, were polymorphic in both river populations. Despite limited habitat and subsequent restricted ranges (~ 5 kmalong each river), populations of this obligately outcrossed species were moderately substructured (mean FST = 0.163). Although river populations were separated by ~ 20 kmof mountainous terrain, only 1.05% of the gene diversity was attributable to differences between river populations, while 15.16% was attributable to differences among subpopulations within respective river gorges, and 83.79% was attributable to within subpopulation variation. The low mean FIS value for P. ruthii (0.062) may indicate that this species is avoiding inbreeding by predominantly reproducing vegetatively.

What has been traditionally considered two separate, breeding river populations of P. ruthii was demonstrated, on the basis of two polymorphic loci, to be many separate "rock populations" within each river population. To determine how many separate breeding groups exist, further allozyrne analyses of more rock populations and subsampling within rock populations needs to be conducted. Based on these data each rock outcrop should, unless demonstrated to be the contrary, be considered a "breeding population."

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