Autecological traits determined two evolutionary strategies in Mediterranean plants during the Quaternary: low differentiation and range expansion versus geographical speciation in Linaria



The evolutionary patterns of the Mediterranean flora during the Quaternary have been relatively well documented based on phylogenetic and biogeographic analyses, but few studies have addressed the evolutionary traits that determined diversification and range expansion success during this period. We analysed previously published and newly generated sequences of three plastid noncoding regions (rpl32-trnLUAG, trnS-trnG and trnL-trnF), the nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) and a low-copy nuclear gene intron (AGT1) of Linaria sect. Supinae, a group of angiosperms that diversified in the Quaternary. The origin and recent colonization dynamics of closely related lineages were inferred by biogeographic reconstruction and phylogeographic analyses, while breeding system experiments coupled with ecological and morphological data were used to test association with range expansion and diversification. A combination of traits, including selfing, short lifespan and the ability to tolerate a wide variety of substrates, were key factors underlying range expansion after long-distance dispersal throughout the Mediterranean basin. By contrast, self-incompatibility may have promoted higher diversification rates in narrow ranges of the Iberian Peninsula. We argue that a few traits contributed to the adoption of two contrasting strategies that may have been predominant in the evolution of Mediterranean angiosperms.