• chloroplast microsatellites;
  • ecological predictive model;
  • Hordeum gussoneanum;
  • Hordeum marinum;
  • phylogeography;
  • speciation;
  • trnL–F


The Hordeum marinum species group consists of two annual grasses of western Eurasian saline meadows or marshes. The two grasses split in the Quaternary about two million years ago. Hordeum marinum and the diploid of Hordeum gussoneanum (2×) co-occur throughout the Mediterranean basin, while the autotetraploid cytotype of H. gussoneanum (4×) overlaps with its diploid progenitor geographically only in the utmost Eastern Mediterranean, extending from there eastwards into Asia. Using chloroplast sequences of the trnL-F region, six newly developed chloroplast microsatellite loci, ecological predictive models based on climate data, and the present geographical distribution of the two species we analysed differentiation processes in the H. marinum group. The chloroplast data indicated clear differences in the history of both species. For H. marinum we found a subdivision between genetically variable populations from the Iberian Peninsula and the more uniform populations from the remaining Mediterranean. As an explanation, we assume Pleistocene fragmentation of an earlier widespread population and survival in an Iberian and a Central Mediterranean glacial refuge. Chloroplast variation was completely absent within the cytotypes of H. gussoneanum, indicating a severe and recent genetic bottleneck. Due to this lack of chloroplast variation only the combination of ecological habitat modelling with molecular data analyses allowed conclusions about the history of this taxon. The distribution areas of the two cytotypes of H. gussoneanum overlap today in parts of Turkey, indicating an area with similar climate conditions during polyploid formation. However, after its origin the polyploid cytotype underwent a pronounced ecological shift, compared to its diploid progenitor, allowing it to colonize mountainous inland habitats between the Mediterranean basin and Afghanistan. The extant sympatric occurrence of H. marinum and H. gussoneanum 2× in the Mediterranean region is interpreted as a result of secondary contact after fast Holocene range expansion out of different ice age refugia.