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

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

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17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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. © 2011 The Author.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-441
JournalAnnals of Botany
Volume109
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2012

Keywords

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

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