Journal Article

Patterns of genetic variability and habitat occupancy in <i>Crepis triasii</i> (Asteraceae) at different spatial scales: insights on evolutionary processes leading to diversification in continental islands

Maria Mayol, Carles Palau, Josep A. Rosselló, Santiago C. González-Martínez, Arántzazu Molins and Miquel Riba

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 109, issue 2, pages 429-441
Published in print February 2012 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online December 2011 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcr298
Patterns of genetic variability and habitat occupancy in Crepis triasii (Asteraceae) at different spatial scales: insights on evolutionary processes leading to diversification in continental islands

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
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Background and Aims

Archipelagos are unique systems for studying evolutionary processes promoting diversification and speciation. The islands of the Mediterranean basin are major areas of plant richness, including a high proportion of narrow endemics. Many endemic plants are currently found in rocky habitats, showing varying patterns of habitat occupancy at different spatial scales throughout their range. The aim of the present study was to understand the impact of varying patterns of population distribution on genetic diversity and structure to shed light on demographic and evolutionary processes leading to population diversification in Crepis triasii, an endemic plant from the eastern Balearic Islands.

Methods

Using allozyme and chloroplast markers, we related patterns of genetic structure and diversity to those of habitat occupancy at a regional (between islands and among populations within islands) and landscape (population size and connectivity) scale.

Key Results

Genetic diversity was highly structured both at the regional and at the landscape level, and was positively correlated with population connectivity in the landscape. Populations located in small isolated mountains and coastal areas, with restricted patterns of regional occupancy, were genetically less diverse and much more differentiated. In addition, more isolated populations had stronger fine-scale genetic structure than well-connected ones. Changes in habitat availability and quality arising from marine transgressions during the Quaternary, as well as progressive fragmentation associated with the aridification of the climate since the last glaciation, are the most plausible factors leading to the observed patterns of genetic diversity and structure.

Conclusions

Our results emphasize the importance of gene flow in preventing genetic erosion and maintaining the evolutionary potential of populations. They also agree with recent studies highlighting the importance of restricted gene flow and genetic drift as drivers of plant evolution in Mediterranean continental islands.

Keywords: Allozymes; Balearic flora; chloroplast microsatellites; continental islands; Crepis triasii; fragmentation; genetic diversity; genetic drift; Quaternary; spatially structured populations; SGS

Journal Article.  9241 words.  Illustrated.

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

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