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Phylogeographical structure in the coastal species Senecio rodriguezii (Asteraceae), a narrowly distributed endemic Mediterranean plant

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Abstract Aim 

Our goals were (1) to assess the levels of chloroplast DNA variation in a narrowly distributed plant restricted to continental islands, (2) to ascertain whether a phylogeographical structure is present in plants restricted to coastal linear systems, and (3) to interpret the results in the light of the known palaeogeography of these islands. Location 

The Eastern Balearic Islands (Majorca and Minorca) in the Western Mediterranean Basin. Methods 

Sampling included 134 individuals from 28 populations of Senecio rodriguezii covering the entire range of the species. Sequences of the chloroplast genome (trnT–trnL spacer) were obtained and parameters of population genetic diversity and substructure were determined (hsht, Gst). The geographical structure of genetic variation was assessed by an analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA). Additionally, a spatial AMOVA (SAMOVA) was used to identify groups of populations that were geographically homogeneous and maximally differentiated from each other. Finally, a pattern of isolation by distance was assessed by testing the correlation between the matrix of pairwise ΦST values and the matrix of geographical distances between pairs of populations using a Mantel test. Results 

Seven haplotypes were detected in S. rodriguezii. Only two of them were shared between islands; all of the others were restricted to Majorca (two) or Minorca (three). Overall, we found high levels of genetic diversity and significant geographical structuring of cpDNA markers. Most of the variation detected can be attributed to differences among populations (84.6%), but there was also a significant differentiation between the islands. Main conclusions 

Our results support the view that the Balearic Islands constitute a reservoir of genetic diversity, not only for widespread Mediterranean taxa, but also for endemic ones. The intraspecific genetic structure found in S. rodriguezii suggests that its population history was dominated by both expansion and contraction events. This has resulted in a species that is highly structured genetically, showing very few shared haplotypes between islands, and a high number of haplotypes restricted to small geographical areas within the islands. Changes in habitat availability and dynamic processes of population fragmentation and connectivity due to repeated cycles of sea-level changes during the Quaternary are the possible underlying factors that have shaped the cpDNA pool of this endemic species on a regional scale.
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Keywords: Chloroplast DNA; SAMOVA; Senecio rodriguezii; Western Mediterranean Basin; coastal plant species; continental islands; genetic structure; phylogeography

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: CREAF (Center for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications), Autonomous University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

Publication date: 2009-07-01

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