Whether alpine plant species survived Pleistocene glaciations in situ on high alpine nunatak mountains is still under debate. To test this hypothesis, Senecio halleri, a high alpine and endemic species with a narrow distribution range in the European Alps, was chosen as a model organism. Polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphisms of chloroplast DNA (cpDNA PCR-RFLPs) were used in a phylogeographic analysis of 14 populations of S. halleri, covering its total distribution area. The results of haplotype diversity and distribution gave evidence of in situ glacial survival on siliceous central-alpine nunatak mountains in two areas, southwest and northeast of the Aosta valley. According to the absence of genetic differentiation between these two nunatak areas (based on amova), nested clade analysis implied a history of preglacial gene flow, in situ survival and extinction of intermediate populations during glaciation and postglacial stepwise recolonization of peripheral and intermediate areas.
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