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Gentianella stiriaca, a case of reticulate evolution in the northeastern and eastern Central Alps

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Abstract:

We gathered morphological and genetic evidence for introgressive patterns in Gentianella stiriaca, a taxon thought to have resulted from reticulate relationships between two or three species (G. aspera, G. austriaca, G. rhaetica). Multivariate analyses including morphometric and classical differential characters were poorly resolving and showed that G. stiriaca was mostly distributed within G. rhaetica and G. aspera. Using only the categorical classical differential characters, three well-separated morphological groups (G. aspera, G. austriaca, G. rhaetica) were identified, however, with half of the G. stiriaca samples close to G. rhaetica. In contrast, AFLP data revealed several groups that were not concordant with morphological groups. Neighbour Joining, PCoA and Bayesian admixture analysis (BAPS) each identified a northeastern gene pool of G. aspera including northern samples of G. stiriaca, and a southeastern gene pool of G. rhaetica including southeastern G. stiriaca. Both gene pools show some admixture from G. austriaca. The genetic data support an old hypothesis of multiple hybrid origin and introgressive processes in the evolution of G. stiriaca. We discuss the effect of Pleistocene climate changes on the patterns of variation and introgression in Gentianella. We consider "G. stiriaca" a polytopic variant that does not deserve specific rank. Following the morphological species concept we propose including it in G. rhaetica to which it is most similar.

Keywords: AFLP; EASTERN ALPS; GENETIC ADMIXTURE; GENTIANELLA; INTROGRESSION; MORPHOLOGY; PLEISTOCENE

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, Faculty Center Botany, University of Vienna, Rennweg 14, 1030 Vienna, Austria 2: Department of Biology Education, College of Education, Kongju National University, 182 Singwan-dong, Konju-si, Chungcheongnam-do, 314-701, Korea

Publication date: August 1, 2007

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