Genetic structure of the shrub Daphne laureola across the Baetic Ranges, a Mediterranean glacial refugium and biodiversity hotspot


  • Editor
    T. Peeters

A. R. Castilla, Estación Biológica de Doñana, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Avenida Américo Vespucio s/n, E-41092 Sevilla, Spain.


Distribution margins constitute areas particularly prone to random and/or adaptive intraspecific differentiation in plants. This trend may be particularly marked in species discontinuously distributed across mountain ranges, where sharp geographic isolation gradients and habitat boundaries will enhance genetic isolation among populations. In this study, we analysed the level of neutral genetic differentiation among populations of the long-lived shrub Daphne laureola (Thymelaeaceae) across the Baetic Ranges, a glacial refugium and biodiversity hotspot in the western Mediterranean Basin. Within this area, core and marginal populations of D. laureola were compared with regard to their spatial isolation, size, genetic diversity and differentiation. A spatially explicit analysis conducted on the vast majority of the species’ known populations in the study area (N = 111) showed that marginal populations (western and eastern) present larger spatial isolation than core populations, but are not smaller. We compared genetic diversity and differentiation between core and marginal populations using a subsample of 15 populations and 225 amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers. Core and marginal populations did not differ in genetic diversity, probably because of the occurrence of large populations on the local margins. Western populations were strongly differentiated from the other populations. In addition, spatial and genetic differentiation among populations was larger on the western margin. Eastern populations constituted a genetically homogeneous group closely related to core populations, despite their greater spatial isolation. Results suggest that studies on phenotypic differentiation between core and marginal populations of D. laureola, and presumably other species having discontinuous distributions across the Baetic ranges, should take into account geographical differences in levels of genetic differentiation between the different distribution borders.