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Conservation Value of Sites of Hybridization in Peripheral Populations of Rare Plant Species

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Populations at the periphery of a species’ range are of interest to conservation biologists because they can show marked genetic differentiation from populations at the center of a range and because of potential hybridization among rare and common species. We examined two closely related Cyclamen species. One is a narrow endemic, and the other is more geographically widespread (both protected by law in continental southern France). We used floral traits and genetic variability to test for hybridization among the species in peripheral populations of the rare species. The species co-occurred on Corsica in a disjunct, peripheral part of the distribution of the endemic species and in an ecologically marginal area for the widespread species. The two species have hybridized and the endemic species showed high levels of introgression with its widespread congener. Genetic and floral variability in sites with both species was markedly higher than in sites with a single species. Our results highlight the need for a conservation strategy that integrates hybrid populations because they represent a source of novel diversity that may have adaptive potential.
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Keywords: Cyclamen; Mediterranean; Mediterráneo; conservación; conservation; endemism; endemismo; hibridación; hybridization; marginal population; peripheral population; población marginal; población periférica

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: UMR 5175 Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, CNRS, 1919 route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier cedex 5, France

Publication date: February 1, 2010

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