The phylogeographical history of the Iberian steppe plant Ferula loscosii (Apiaceae): a test of the abundant-centre hypothesis

The geology and climate of the western Mediterranean area were strongly modified during the Late Tertiary and the Quaternary. These geological and climatic events are thought to have induced changes in the population histories of plants in the Iberian Peninsula. However, fine-scale genetic spatial architecture across western Mediterranean steppe plant refugia has rarely been investigated. A population genetic analysis of amplified fragment length polymorphism variation was conducted on present-day, relict populations of Ferula loscosii (Apiaceae). This species exhibits high individual/population numbers in the middle Ebro river valley and, according to the hypothesis of an abundant-centre distribution, these northern populations might represent a long-standing/ancestral distribution centre. However, our results suggest that the decimated southern and central Iberian populations are more variable and structured than the northeastern ones, representing the likely vestiges of an ancestral distribution centre of the species. Phylogeographical analysis suggests that F. loscosii likely originated in southern Spain and then migrated towards the central and northeastern ranges, further supporting a Late Miocene southern-bound Mediterranean migratory way for its oriental steppe ancestors. In addition, different glacial-induced conditions affected the southern and northern steppe Iberian refugia during the Quaternary. The contrasting genetic homogeneity of the Ebro valley range populations compared to the southern Iberian ones possibly reflects more severe bottlenecks and subsequent genetic drift experienced by populations of the northern Iberia refugium during the Pleistocene, followed by successful postglacial expansion from only a few founder plants.

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