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Keywords:

  • chloroplast DNA;
  • glaciation;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • Quaternary;
  • refugium;
  • suture-zone

The Quaternary cold periods in Europe are thought to have heavily influenced the amount and distribution of intraspecific genetic variation in both animals and plants. The phylogeographies of 10 taxa, including mammals (Ursus arctos, Sorex spp., Crocidura suaveolens, Arvicola spp.), amphibians (Triturus spp.), arthropods (Chorthippus parallelus), and plants (Abies alba, Picea abies, Fagus sylvatica, Quercus spp.), were analysed to elucidate general trends across Europe. Only a small degree of congruence was found amongst the phylogeographies of the 10 taxa, but the likely postglacial colonization routes exhibit some similarities. A Brooks parsimony analysis produced an unrooted area phylogram, showing that: (i) the northern regions were colonized generally from the Iberic and Balkanic refugia; and (ii) the Italian lineages were often isolated due to the presence of the Alpine barrier. The comparison of colonization routes highlighted four main suture-zones where lineages from the different refugia meet. Some of the intraspecific genetic distances among lineages indicated a prequaternary divergence that cannot be connected to any particular cold period, but are probably related mainly to the date of arrival of each taxon in the European continent. As a consequence, molecular genetics so far appears to be of limited use in dating Quaternary events.