Journal Article

Dynamics of polyploid formation and establishment in the allotetraploid rock fern <i>Asplenium majoricum</i>

Harriet V. Hunt, Stephen W. Ansell, Stephen J. Russell, Harald Schneider and Johannes C. Vogel

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 108, issue 1, pages 143-157
Published in print July 2011 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online May 2011 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Dynamics of polyploid formation and establishment in the allotetraploid rock fern Asplenium majoricum

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims

Successful establishment of newly formed polyploid species depends on several interlinked genetic and ecological factors. These include genetic diversity within and among individuals, chromosome behaviour and fertility, novel phenotypes resulting from novel genomic make-up and expression, intercytotypic and interspecific competition, and adaptation to distinct habitats. The allotetraploid rock fern Asplenium majoricum is known from one small population in Valencia, Spain, and several larger populations on the Balearic island of Majorca. In Valencia, it occurs sympatrically with its diploid parents, A. fontanum subsp. fontanum and A. petrarchae subsp. bivalens, and their diploid hybrid A. × protomajoricum. This highly unusual situation allowed the study of polyploid genetic diversity and its relationship to the formation and establishment of nascent polyploid lineages.


Genetic variation for isozyme and chloroplast DNA markers was determined for A. majoricum and A. × protomajoricum sampled thoroughly from known sites in Majorca and Valencia. Results were compared with variation determined previously for the diploid parent taxa.

Key Results

A highly dynamic system with recurring diploid hybrid and allotetraploid formation was discovered. High diversity in the small Valencian A. majoricum population indicates multiple de novo origins from diverse parental genotypes, but most of these lineages become extinct without becoming established. The populations on Majorca most probably represent colonization(s) from Valencia rather than an in situ origin. Low genetic diversity suggests that this colonization may have occurred only once.


There is a striking contrast in success of establishment of the Majorcan and Valencian populations of A. majoricum. Chance founding of populations in a habitat where neither A. fontanum subsp. fontanum nor A. petrarchae subsp. bivalens occurs appears to have been a key factor enabling the establishment of A. majoricum on Majorca. Successful establishment of this polyploid is probably dependent on geographic isolation from diploid progenitor competition.

Keywords: Asplenium majoricum; Asplenium × protomajoricum; A. fontanum subsp. fontanum; A. petrarchae subsp. bivalens; allopolyploid; multiple origins; hybridization; colonization; Balearic islands; polyploid speciation

Journal Article.  10183 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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