J Syst Evol ›› 2020, Vol. 58 ›› Issue (4): 487-503.DOI: 10.1111/jse.12531

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Repeated jumps from Northwest Africa to the European continent: The case of peripheral populations of an annual plant

Francisco Javier Valtueña1*, Mario Fernández-Mazuecos2, Tomás Rodríguez-Riaño1, Josefa López1 and Ana Ortega-Olivencia1   

  1. 1Área de Botánica, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Extremadura, Avda. de Elvas s/n, Badajoz 06006, Spain
    2Departamento de Biodiversidad y Conservación, Real Jardín Botánico (RJB–CSIC), Plaza de Murillo 2, Madrid 28014, Spain
  • Received:2019-03-12 Accepted:2019-06-26 Online:2019-07-16 Published:2020-07-01


Peripheral populations (i.e., those occurring on the edge of a species’ distribution range) can have different origins and genetic characteristics, and they may be critical for the conservation of genetic diversity. We investigated European peripheral populations of Scrophularia arguta , a widespread, annual plant distributed from Arabia to Northwest Africa and Macaronesia. Only two small disjunct population groups of this species occur in Europe, specifically in West‐Central and Southeast Iberia. To disclose the origin of these populations and determine their importance for the conservation of S. arguta genetic diversity, we analyzed DNA sequences from two nuclear and two plastid regions and amplified fragment length polymorphism markers in populations sampled mainly across the western distribution range of the species, and modeled the species distribution under present and late Quaternary conditions. The analyses revealed the presence of three distinct lineages of S. arguta in Europe, as a result of multiple colonization waves at different times in the Quaternary. Two of these lineages, occurring in Southeast Iberia, are the result of more or less recent dispersal from Northwest Africa. In contrast, West‐Central Iberian populations are strongly differentiated from the remaining range of S. arguta and can be considered as peripheral relict populations. Our study is the first to demonstrate the occurrence of at least three colonizations of the European continent from Africa by a native plant species. The diverse histories and genetic makeup of the resulting populations confirm the importance of peripheral populations, and particularly of ancient relict populations, for the conservation of global genetic diversity in widespread species.

Key words: disjunct populations, genetic diversity, long-distance dispersal, migration routes, phylogeography, Scrophularia