• chloroplast DNA;
  • clone mates;
  • divergence;
  • mutation;
  • Taraxacum


This study aims to identify genetically diverged clone mates in apomictic dandelions. Clone mates are defined as individuals that may have diverged as a result of mutation accumulation and that have undergone only clonal reproduction since their most recent common ancestor. Based on distinctive morphology and an aberrant and rare chloroplast haplotype, northwest European individuals of Taraxacum section Naevosa are well suited for the detection of clonal lineages in which mutation has occurred. In the case of strictly clonal reproduction, nuclear genetic variability was expected to be hierarchically organized. Nucleotide polymorphisms in internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequences, however, were incompatible with a clonal structure of the Norwegian individuals, probably due to persistent ancestral polymorphisms that pre-date the origin of the Naevosa clone. This interpretation is supported by the presence of ITS variants in section Naevosa that were also found in distantly related dandelions. In contrast to the ITS sequence data, amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs), isozymes and microsatellites strongly supported the contention of prolonged clonal reproduction and mutation accumulation in Norwegian Naevosa. Because these markers are generally considered to be more variable and more rapidly evolving than ITS sequences, mutations in these markers probably evolved after the origin of the clone. Within the Norwegian clone, a surprising number of markers distinguished the clone mates. As a consequence, incorporation of mutation in the detection of clone mates is anticipated to have a big impact on estimates of size, geographical range and age of clones as well as on experimental designs of studies of clonal plants.