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Plant Biol (Stuttg). 2011 Jul;13(4):678-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1438-8677.2010.00411.x. Epub 2010 Nov 19.

Genetic variation in Mediterranean Helichrysum italicum (Asteraceae; Gnaphalieae): do disjunct populations of subsp. microphyllum have a common origin?

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1
Departament de Biologia Animal, Biologia Vegetal i Ecologia, Facultat de Biociències, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Spain. pallenis@yahoo.com

Abstract

The yellow-flowered everlasting daisy Helichrysum italicum (Asteraceae, Gnaphalieae) is widely distributed in the Mediterranean basin, where it grows in continuous and widespread populations in diverse open habitats. Helichrysum italicum subsp. microphyllum has a disjunct distribution in the Balearic Islands (Majorca and Dragonera), Corsica, Sardinia, Crete and Cyprus. Numerous morphological intermediates between subsp. italicum and subsp. microphyllum are known from Corsica, where the two subspecies co-occur. The aims of the study were to investigate if subsp. microphyllum has a common origin, constituting an independent gene pool from subsp. italicum, or if the morphological differences between subsp. microphyllum and subsp. italicum have arisen independently in different locations from a common wider gene pool. Our analyses of AFLP, cpDNA sequences and morphological characters show that there is geographic structure to the genetic variation within H. italicum, with eastern and western Mediterranean groups, which do not correspond with the division into subsp. microphyllum and subsp. italicum as currently circumscribed. Local selection on quantitative trait loci provides sufficient explanation for the morphological divergence observed and is consistent with genetic data. Within the western Mediterranean group of the species we found considerable polymorphism in chloroplast DNA sequences among and within some populations. Comparison with chloroplast DNA sequences from other Helichrysum species showed that some chloroplast haplotypes are shared across species.

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