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1.  Biogeography of Mediterranean Hotspot Biodiversity: Re-Evaluating the 'Tertiary Relict' Hypothesis of Macaronesian Laurel Forests 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0132091.
The Macaronesian laurel forests (MLF) are dominated by trees with a laurophyll habit comparable to evergreen humid forests which were scattered across Europe and the Mediterranean in the Paleogene and Neogene. Therefore, MLF are traditionally regarded as an old, 'Tertiary relict' vegetation type. Here we address the question if key taxa of the MLF are relictual. We evaluated the relict hypothesis consulting fossil data and analyses based on molecular phylogenies of 18 representative species. For molecular dating we used the program BEAST, for ancestral trait reconstructions BayesTraits and Lagrange to infer ancestral areas. Our molecular dating showed that the origins of four species date back to the Upper Miocene while 14 originated in the Plio-Pleistocene. This coincides with the decline of fossil laurophyllous elements in Europe since the middle Miocene. Ancestral trait and area reconstructions indicate that MLF evolved partly from pre-adapted taxa from the Mediterranean, Macaronesia and the tropics. According to the fossil record laurophyllous taxa existed in Macaronesia since the Plio- and Pleistocene. MLF are composed of species with a heterogeneous origin. The taxa dated to the Pleistocene are likely not 'Tertiary relicts'. Some species may be interpreted as relictual. In this case, the establishment of most species in the Plio-Pleistocene suggests that there was a massive species turnover before this time. Alternatively, MLF were largely newly assembled through global recruitment rather than surviving as relicts of a once more widespread vegetation. This process may have possibly been triggered by the intensification of the trade winds at the end of the Pliocene as indicated by proxy data.
PMCID: PMC4501571  PMID: 26173113
2.  A local dormancy cline is related to the seed maturation environment, population genetic composition and climate 
Annals of Botany  2013;112(5):937-945.
Background and Aims
Seed dormancy varies within species in response to climate, both in the long term (through ecotypes or clines) and in the short term (through the influence of the seed maturation environment). Disentangling both processes is crucial to understand plant adaptation to environmental changes. In this study, the local patterns of seed dormancy were investigated in a narrow endemic species, Centaurium somedanum, in order to determine the influence of the seed maturation environment, population genetic composition and climate.
Laboratory germination experiments were performed to measure dormancy in (1) seeds collected from different wild populations along a local altitudinal gradient and (2) seeds of a subsequent generation produced in a common garden. The genetic composition of the original populations was characterized using intersimple sequence repeat (ISSR) PCR and principal co-ordinate analysis (PCoA), and its correlation with the dormancy patterns of both generations was analysed. The effect of the local climate on dormancy was also modelled.
Key Results
An altitudinal dormancy cline was found in the wild populations, which was maintained by the plants grown in the common garden. However, seeds from the common garden responded better to stratification, and their release from dormancy was more intense. The patterns of dormancy variation were correlated with genetic composition, whereas lower temperature and summer precipitation at the population sites predicted higher dormancy in the seeds of both generations.
The dormancy cline in C. somedanum is related to a local climatic gradient and also corresponds to genetic differentiation among populations. This cline is further affected by the weather conditions during seed maturation, which influence the receptiveness to dormancy-breaking factors. These results show that dormancy is influenced by both long-and short-term climatic variation. Such processes at such a reduced spatial scale highlight the potential of plants to adapt to fast environmental changes.
PMCID: PMC3747807  PMID: 23864001
Centaurium somedanum; clinal variation; common garden; ecophysiology; endemic; Gentianaceae; germination; ISSR; plant–climate interactions; PCoA; seed dormancy; seed ecology
3.  Molecular taxonomy of Dunaliella (Chlorophyceae), with a special focus on D. salina: ITS2 sequences revisited with an extensive geographical sampling 
Aquatic Biosystems  2012;8:2.
We used an ITS2 primary and secondary structure and Compensatory Base Changes (CBCs) analyses on new French and Spanish Dunallela salina strains to investigate their phylogenetic position and taxonomic status within the genus Dunaliella. Our analyses show a great diversity within D. salina (with only some clades not statistically supported) and reveal considerable genetic diversity and structure within Dunaliella, although the CBC analysis did not bolster the existence of different biological groups within this taxon. The ITS2 sequences of the new Spanish and French D. salina strains were very similar except for two of them: ITC5105 "Janubio" from Spain and ITC5119 from France. Although the Spanish one had a unique ITS2 sequence profile and the phylogenetic tree indicates that this strain can represent a new species, this hypothesis was not confirmed by CBCs, and clarification of its taxonomic status requires further investigation with new data. Overall, the use of CBCs to define species boundaries within Dunaliella was not conclusive in some cases, and the ITS2 region does not contain a geographical signal overall.
PMCID: PMC3310333  PMID: 22520929
Canary Islands; Compensatory Base Changes; Dunaliella salina; Internal Transcribed Spacer; Saltworks; Taxonomy
4.  The Colonization History of Juniperus brevifolia (Cupressaceae) in the Azores Islands 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27697.
A central aim of island biogeography is to understand the colonization history of insular species using current distributions, fossil records and genetic diversity. Here, we analyze five plastid DNA regions of the endangered Juniperus brevifolia, which is endemic to the Azores archipelago.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The phylogeny of the section Juniperus and the phylogeographic analyses of J. brevifolia based on the coalescence theory of allele (plastid) diversity suggest that: (1) a single introduction event likely occurred from Europe; (2) genetic diversification and inter-island dispersal postdated the emergence of the oldest island (Santa Maria, 8.12 Ma); (3) the genetic differentiation found in populations on the islands with higher age and smaller distance to the continent is significantly higher than that on the younger, more remote ones; (4) the high number of haplotypes observed (16), and the widespread distribution of the most frequent and ancestral ones across the archipelago, are indicating early diversification, demographic expansion, and recurrent dispersal. In contrast, restriction of six of the seven derived haplotypes to single islands is construed as reflecting significant isolation time prior to colonization.
Our phylogeographic reconstruction points to the sequence of island emergence as the key factor to explain the distribution of plastid DNA variation. The reproductive traits of this juniper species (anemophily, ornithochory, multi-seeded cones), together with its broad ecological range, appear to be largely responsible for recurrent inter-island colonization of ancestral haplotypes. In contrast, certain delay in colonization of new haplotypes may reflect intraspecific habitat competition on islands where this juniper was already present.
PMCID: PMC3218011  PMID: 22110727

Results 1-4 (4)