Morphological differentiation within the Ranunculuscassubicus group compared to variation of isozymes, ploidy levels, and reproductive systems: implications for taxonomy
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In the partly apomictic Ranunculus cassubicus group, a subgroup of the R. auricomus complex, two species were studied by morphometric analyses: R. cassubicifolius W. Koch (with three diploid and two autotetraploid sexual populations), and R. carpaticola Soó (with three diploid sexual populations and a hexaploid apomictic one). Multidimensional scaling analyses (MDS) of individuals, boxplots and cluster analyses of populations revealed a differentiation of R. cassubicifolius and R. carpaticola, whereby in MDS the hexaploid apomictic individuals are partly intermediate between R. cassubicifolius and R. carpaticola. The cytodemes of R. cassubicifolius showed no morphological and only a weak genetic differentiation. A comparison of morphology, isozymes, reproductive system and ploidy levels showed only partly congruence of data sets in respect of grouping populations, thus illustrating the problem to find criteria for a taxonomic concept. A treatment of the apomictic population as a separate group is indicated by all data sets, afterwards R. cassubicifolius and diploid R. carpaticola represent two other well-defined groups. Canonical variate analysis including all characters confirmed the three suggested groups as significantly different and showed that a total of 89.3% of individuals are correctly classified; number of teeth of stem leaf segments and number of petals are the most discriminating characters. Herbarium studies confirm the morphological differentiation yielded from population samples. The three population groups are even better separated in a canonical variate analysis of isozyme data (presence/absence of 25 alleles) of the same material, here 92.6% of individuals are correctly classified. Morphology and isozyme data suggest that the hexaploid apomict originated from hybrids of R. cassubicifolius and diploid R. carpaticola and must be excluded from the sexual taxa; the final classification and naming of the apomicts must be left for further studies on a larger material. The sexual taxa should be classified as separate species. Herbarium studies indicate that R. carpaticola s.str. is widespread over the Carpathians and might include other populations hitherto ascribed to other microspecies as well.
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