Nucleotide polymorphisms at genomic regions including 17 nuclear loci, two chloroplast and one mitochondrial DNA fragments were used to study the speciation history of three pine species: dwarf mountain pine (Pinus mugo), peat-bog pine (P. uliginosa) and Scots pine (P. sylvestris). We set out to investigate three specific speciation scenarios: (I) P. uliginosa is a homoploid hybrid between the other two, (II) the species have evolved without gene flow after divergence and (III) there has been substantial gene flow between the species since their divergence. Overall, the genetic data suggest that P. mugo and P. uliginosa share the same gene pool (average net divergence of 0.0001) and that the phenotypic differences (e.g. growth form) are most likely due to very limited areas of the genome. P. mugo and P. uliginosa are more diverged from P. sylvestris than from each other (average net divergence of 0.0027 and 0.0026, respectively). The nucleotide patterns can best be explained by the divergence with migration speciation scenario, although the hybrid speciation scenario with small genomic contribution from P. sylvestris cannot be completely ruled out. We suggest that the large amount of shared polymorphisms between the pine taxa and the lack of monophyly at all loci studied between P. sylvestris and P. mugo–P. uliginosa can largely be explained by relatively recent speciation history and large effective population sizes but also by interspecific gene flow. These closely related pine taxa form an excellent system for searching for loci involved in adaptive variation as they are differentiated in phenotype and ecology but have very similar genetic background.
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