Patterns of plastid and nuclear variation among apomictic polyploids of Hieracium: evolutionary processes and taxonomic implications
Background and Aims Apomictic species (with asexual seed production) make up for 20–50 % of all taxonomically recognized species in northern Europe, but the phylogenetic relationships of apomictic species and the mode of evolution and speciation remain largely unknown and their taxonomy is consequently disputed.Methods In the present study, plastid psbD-trnT sequences (349 accessions) and 12 nuclear microsatellite loci (478 accessions) were used to create an overview of the molecular variation in (mainly) northern European members of the most species-rich of all plant genera, Hieracium s.s. The results are discussed and interpreted in the context of morphological and cytological data on the same species.Key Results and Conclusions The complete psbD-trnT alignment was 1243 bp and 50 polymorphisms defined 40 haplotypes. All haplotypes found in the sections of the genus distributed in the northern European lowlands fell into one of two main groups, group H and group V, mutually separated by seven or eight polymorphisms. All accessions belonging to H. sects. Foliosa, Hieracioides (viz. H. umbellatum) and Tridentata and all but one accession of triploid species of H. sects. Oradea and Vulgata showed haplotypes of group V. Haplotypes of group H were found in all accessions of H. sects. Bifida and Hieracium and in all tetraploid representatives of H. sects. Oreadea and Vulgata. Additional haplotypes were found in accessions of the genus Pilosella and in southern European and Alpine sections of Hieracium. In contrast, the distribution of individual haplotypes in the two major groups appeared uncorrelated with morphology and current taxonomy, but polymorphisms within species were only rarely encountered. In total, 160 microsatellite alleles were identified. Levels of variation were generally high with only nine pairs of accessions being identical at all loci (in all cases representing accessions of the same species). In the neighbor-joining analysis based on the microsatellite data, accessions of the same species generally clustered together and some smaller groups of species congruent with morphology and/or current taxonomy were recovered but, except for H. sect. Oreadea, most larger groups were not correlated with morphology. Although the plastid DNA sequences show too little variation and the nuclear microsatellites are too variable to resolve relationships successfully among species or to fully understand processes of evolution, it is concluded that both species and sections as defined by morphology are largely congruent with the molecular data, that gene flow between the sections is rare or non-existent and that the tetraploid species may constitute the key to understanding evolution and speciation in this genus.