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The polyploid Alyssum montanum-A. repens complex in the Balkans: a hotspot of species and genetic diversity

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The Balkan Peninsula is an important diversity and speciation centre for many species groups. The high genetic, karyological and morphological complexity of the Alyssum montanum-A. repens species group (Brassicaceae) in the Balkans makes it a challenging study subject for exploring different speciation mechanisms and their taxonomic consequences. In the present study, ploidy level and genetic (AFLPs and chloroplast DNA sequences) data were examined and confronted with recent taxonomic concepts. Remarkable genetic and morphological variation, which is often geographically structured, and high incidence of polyploids suggest a very complex evolutionary history in this area, involving allopatric differentiation and past hybridisation and polyploidisation events. A new taxonomic treatment, differing substantially from recent concepts, is suggested. Several previously recognised taxa, including many endemics, such as A. austrodalmaticum, A. handelii, A. moellendorfianum, A. pirinicum and A. wierzbickii, are confirmed as distinct. Several other taxa are suggested to be resurrected or elevated to the species level, namely, A. bosniacum, A. montenegrinum, A. reiseri and A. vernale. Phylogenetic relationships among populations from the central Balkans and Greece are still partly blurred apparently due to more extensive reticulations, and their taxonomic classifications remain provisional. They are treated here under the tentative name A. spruneri. The patterns of variation revealed in the present study highlight the importance of the Balkan Peninsula for the persistence and diversification of vascular plants.

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We are grateful to all the colleagues who accompanied us in the field. We would like to thank the Directorate of Pirin National Park (Bansko) for permission to collect samples of Alyssum and D. Lakušić (Belgrade) for advice on the localities of Alyssum montanum s.l. in Serbia. We also thank the curators of the herbaria in Budapest (BP) and Vienna (W, WU) for allowing us to access their collections. This study was financially supported by the Slovak Research and Development Agency (APVV, Grant no. APVV-0139-12 to J.Z.-L. and K.M.), Grant Agency VEGA, Bratislava, Slovak Republic (grant nr. 2/0133/17 to S.Š.), the Czech Science Foundation (Grant no. 16-10809S to K.M.), the European Social Fund and the state budget of the Czech Republic (CZ.1.07/2.3.00/30.0022 to S.Š.). Part of the field expenses in Bulgaria and Romania were covered by the cooperation schemes between the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Romanian Academy of Sciences and Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

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Correspondence to Stanislav Španiel.

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Online Resource 1. Detailed list of the studied population samples of the Alyssum montanum-A. repens complex.

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Španiel, S., Marhold, K. & Zozomová-Lihová, J. The polyploid Alyssum montanum-A. repens complex in the Balkans: a hotspot of species and genetic diversity. Plant Syst Evol 303, 1443–1465 (2017).

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  • Alyssum
  • Allopatric differentiation
  • Balkan Peninsula
  • Carpathians
  • Disjunction
  • Polyploidy