Contrasting geographical patterns of ancient and modern genetic lineages in Mediterranean Abies species
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The diversification and distribution of Abies species throughout the Mediterranean region has led to a complex of species which are difficult to classify. An open question is whether these mainly allopatric taxa have exchanged genetic information via secondary contact. We studied the variation and geographic distribution of paternally inherited chloroplast DNA markers in nine Mediterranean Abies taxa. Markers with high and low mutation rates were applied in order to differentiate among a scenario of secondary genetic contact and a scenario of complete isolation after speciation. The observed molecular variation was analysed using statistical parsimony, geostatistics, and measures of population genetic differentiation. Ancient paternal lineages, represented by markers with low mutation rates, were shared among species. The central and widespread A. alba retained all ancient lineages whereas other species exhibited fewer, down to a single lineage. In contrast, modern lineages, depicted by markers with high mutation rates, were largely separated among species. The western Mediterranean A. pinsapo and A. numidica were clearly separated from each other and from the remaining Abies species. This indicates the absence of secondary contact. The same scenario applies to the eastern Mediterranean Abies species. An exception is the parapatric complex of A. alba, A. cephalonica, and their supposed hybrid A. borisii regis, which exhibited evidence of secondary contact.