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Keywords:

  • Abies;
  • chloroplast DNA;
  • host race;
  • parasitic angiosperm;
  • Pinus

Abstract

Mistletoes are bird dispersed, hemi-parasitic shrubs infecting a large number of woody host plants. Chloroplast fragment length polymorphisms were used to study genetic differentiation among presumed host races, population genetic structure, and to elucidate the postglacial migration history of mistletoe (Viscum album) across the entire natural distribution range in Europe. The populations sampled belong to four closely related taxa, three of which are widely distributed and differ in their host trees, whereas a fourth taxon is rare and endemic to the Island of Crete. The molecular analysis of chloroplast DNA variation supported the distinction of these four taxa. We further found evidence for phylogeographical structure in each of the three widely distributed host races. Independent of host race, mistletoe haplotypes from Turkey were distinct and distant from those found elsewhere in Europe, suggesting that highly differentiated populations, and possibly new taxa, exist at the range limit of the species.