The Apennines show high floristic diversity promoted by their particular role as an ice-age refugium. However, studies on the evolution of Apennine plants are rare. Potentilla rigoana from the mainly European P. heptaphylla group is an example of a largely ignored taxon
originally described from this mountain range. Its evolutionary origin and taxonomic status was studied in an interdisciplinary approach combining morphometric, karyological (flow cytometry and chromosome counting), DNA-molecular (AFLP), ecogeographic (WorldClim climatic variables), and phytosociological
data. Morphometric analyses revealed 16 metric and 2 nominal characters separating P. rigoana from its close relatives P. crantzii, P. heptaphylla s.l., and P. neumanniana. Additionally, P. rigoana was intermediate with respect to temperature requirements
as well as altitudinal distribution compared to P. crantzii and P. heptaphylla s.l. The species was documented from 54 populations or sampling sites located in the central and southern Apennines where it occurs in montane to subalpine dry habitats. Morphometric analysis suggested
its occurrence in the Balkans. Molecular and morphometric analyses further suggested reticulate relationships of the Balkan samples of P. heptaphylla s.l. with P. rigoana. Potentilla rigoana comprises five ploidy levels with the dominant diploids and tetraploids geographically
centered in the southern and central Apennines, respectively. The existence of diploids and a uniformly heptaploid population indicate the occurrence of both sexuality and apomixis. The combined datasets suggested species status for P. rigoana. The ecogeographic distribution indicated
an allopatric differentiation of the species within the P. heptaphylla group. The latitudinal separation of diploid and polyploid cytotypes coincided with a glacial refugium in the southern Apennines and more dynamic past climatic conditions in the central Apennines.
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Document Type: Research Article
Department of Pharmacognosy, Pharmacobotany, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria
Department of Botany and Molecular Evolution, Senckenberg Research Institute & Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Senckenberganlage 25, 60325 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Department of Conservation Biology, Vegetation Ecology and Landscape Ecology, University of Vienna, Rennweg 14, 1030 Vienna, Austria; Vienna Institute for Nature Conservation & Analyses, Giessergasse 6/7, 1090 Vienna, Austria
Publication date: 21 August 2013
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