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Genetic evidence for the origins of range disjunctions in the Australian dry sclerophyll plant Hardenbergia violacea

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Abstract Aim 

The distribution of genetic variation in the Australian dry sclerophyll plant Hardenbergia violacea (Fabaceae) is examined in the context of Pleistocene climate change in order to identify likely refugia. Particular consideration is given to the origin of range disjunctions in South Australia and Tasmania, and to determining whether the Tasmanian population is indigenous or recently introduced from mainland Australia. Location 

Southeastern Australian mainland and Tasmania. Methods 

A combination of chloroplast polymerase chain reaction–restriction fragment length polymorphism and genomic amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) marker systems was used to examine the genetic structure of 292 individuals from 13 populations across the range of H. violacea in southeastern Australia. Results 

Hardenbergia violacea populations in Tasmania and southern Victoria were characterized by low, almost monotypic chloroplast diversity. New South Wales showed higher haplotype diversity and haplotype sharing among widely distributed populations. Principal coordinates analysis (PCoA) of the AFLP data found a strong latitudinal cline in AFLP variation from northern New South Wales south to Tasmania. The Tasmanian population formed an isolated and somewhat disjunct genetic cluster at one end of this cline. However, the South Australian population was an exception to the clinal variation shown by all other populations, forming a highly disjunct cluster in the PCoA. Within-population genetic diversity was low in both disjunct populations. Main conclusions 

The genetic evidence indicates that the Tasmanian population is likely to be indigenous and probably the product of vicariance, which was followed by range contraction at the Last Glacial Maximum or an earlier glacial event. The deep phylogenetic disjunction in South Australia is evidence of a much earlier separation on mainland Australia. The chloroplast structure indicates that, during the Pleistocene, H. violacea underwent broad-scale recolonization in southern Victoria and Tasmania, possibly from a large continental refugium in eastern New South Wales. We conclude that H. violacea, and presumably the sclerophyll communities in which it occurs, have undergone multiple range contractions to large continental refugia during different Pleistocene glaciations in southeastern Australia.
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Keywords: AFLP; Hardenbergia violacea; Pleistocene glacial periods; Southeast Australia; chloroplast DNA; glacial refugia; range disjunction; vicariance

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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