Genetic diversity and phylogeography in two diploid ferns, Asplenium fontanum subsp. fontanum and A. petrarchae subsp. bivalens, in the western Mediterranean


Harriet V. Hunt, Fax: +44 (0)1223 339285; E-mail:


Asplenium fontanum subsp. fontanum and A. petrarchae subsp. bivalens are diploid rock ferns of limestone outcrops of the western Mediterranean region. Asplenium fontanum subsp. fontanum occurs from Valencia through northeastern Spain to the Alpes-Maritimes and Swiss Jura. Asplenium petrarchae subsp. bivalens occurs only on Majorca, in Valencia and possibly in southern Spain. We analysed allozyme and chloroplast genetic marker diversity in 75 populations of A. fontanum subsp. fontanum and 12 populations of A. petrarchae subsp. bivalens sampled from across their respective ranges. The two species show similar levels of species and population genetic diversity to one another and to other diploid European Asplenium taxa. Both are predominantly outbreeding, as indicated by FIS = 0.108 and 0.167 respectively. Substantial between-population differentiation results largely from differentiation between regions. Isolation by distance operates over limited geographic ranges, up to 50 km. In A. fontanum subsp. fontanum, the major geographical differentiation between Valencia and the rest of the taxon range probably represents an ancient range fragmentation. A less pronounced differentiation divides populations in the SW from those in the NE of the range, with evidence for a biogeographic link between the eastern Pyrenees and southeastern France. High diversity in the Pyrenees may either represent ancient population differentiation, or a suture zone. In A. petrarchae subsp. bivalens, populations on Majorca exhibit a subset of the genetic diversity present in Valencia, although the two regions are strongly differentiated by differing allele frequencies. Dispersal from the mainland may have founded Majorcan populations, although a role for in situ island survival cannot be excluded.