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Ann Bot. 2009 Apr;103(6):985-97. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcp022. Epub 2009 Feb 18.

Evolution and biogeography of Centaurea section Acrocentron inferred from nuclear and plastid DNA sequence analyses.

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  • 1Institut Botànic de Barcelona (CSIC-ICUB), Pg. del Migdia, s/n, E08038 Barcelona, Spain.



Section Acrocentron of the genus Centaurea is one of the largest sections of Centaurea with approx. 100 species. The geographic distribution, centred in the Mediterranean, makes it an excellent example for studies of the biogeographic history of this biodiversity-rich region.


Plastid (trnH-psbA) and nuclear (ITS and ETS) DNA sequence analysis was used for phylogenetic reconstruction. Ancestral biogeographic patterns were inferred by dispersal-vicariance analysis (DIVA).


The resulting phylogeny has implications for the sectional classification of Acrocentron and confirms merging sect. Chamaecyanus into Acrocentron as a subsection. Previous suggestions of an eastern Mediterranean origin of the group are confirmed. The main centres of diversification established in previous studies are now strongly supported. Expansion of the group in two different radiations that followed patently diverse paths is inferred.


Radiation followed two waves, widely separated in time scale. The oldest one, from Turkey to Greece and the northern Balkans and then to North Africa and Iberia, should be dated at the end of the Miocene in the Messinian period. It reached the Iberian Peninsula from the south, following a route that is landmarked by several relictic taxa in Sicily and North Africa. A later radiation during the Holocene interglacial periods followed, involving species from the north of the Balkan Peninsula, along a Eurasian pathway running from Central Iberia to the steppes of Kazakhstan. A generalized pattern of reticulation is also evident from the results, indicating past contacts between presently separated species. Molecular data also confirmed the extent of hybridization within Acrocentron and were successful in reconstructing the paleogeography of the section.

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