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1.  Remarkable coexistence of multiple cytotypes of the Gymnadenia conopsea aggregate (the fragrant orchid): evidence from flow cytometry 
Annals of Botany  2010;107(1):77-87.
Background and Aims
One of the prerequisites for polyploid research in natural systems is knowledge of the geographical distribution of cytotypes. Here inter- and intrapopulational ploidy diversity was examined in the Gymnadenia conopsea aggregate in central Europe and potential explanations and evolutionary consequences of the observed spatial patterns investigated.
DAPI flow cytometry supplemented by confirmatory chromosome counts was used to determine ploidy in 3581 samples of the G. conopsea aggregate from 43 populations. The fine-scale spatial pattern of cytotype distribution (intra- and interploidy associations) was analysed with univariate and bivariate K-functions.
Key Results
Gymnadenia tissues undergo a progressively partial endoreplication, which accounts for about 60 % and 75 % of the total genome in G. conopsea and G. densiflora, respectively. Flow cytometric profiles are therefore species-specific and can be used as a marker for rapid and reliable species recognition. Two majority (4x, 8x) and three minority (6x, 10x, 12x) cytotypes were found, often in mixed-ploidy populations (harbouring up to all five different ploidy levels). The scarcity of the minority cytotypes (about 2·7 %) suggests the existence of strong pre- or postzygotic mating barriers. Spatial structure was observed in plots of populations with the highest cytotype variation, including clumping of individuals of the same ploidy and negative association between tetra- and octoploids.
The remarkable ploidy coexistence in the G. conopsea aggregate has reshaped our perception of intrapopulational ploidy diversity under natural conditions. This system offers unique opportunities for studying processes governing the formation and establishment of polyploids and assessing the evolutionary significance of the various pre- and postzygotic mating barriers that maintain this ploidy mixture.
PMCID: PMC3002475  PMID: 21059612
Coexistence; contact zone; cytotype mixture; flow cytometry; Gymnadenia conopsea; hybridization; mating barriers; polyploidy; progressively partial endoreplication; spatial distribution; sympatry
2.  Distribution and habitat segregation on different spatial scales among diploid, tetraploid and hexaploid cytotypes of Senecio carniolicus (Asteraceae) in the Eastern Alps 
Annals of Botany  2010;106(6):967-977.
Background and Aims
The spatial distribution of cytotypes can provide valuable insights into evolutionary patterns of polyploid complexes. In a previous study the macro-scale distribution of the three main cytotypes in Senecio carniolicus (Asteraceae) within the Eastern Alps was characterized. Employing a roughly 12-fold extended sampling, the present study focuses on unravelling patterns of cytotype distribution on the meso- and microscale and on correlating those with ecological properties of the growing sites.
DAPI flow cytometry of dried samples was used to determine DNA ploidy level in 5033 individuals from 100 populations spread over the entire Eastern Alpine distribution area of S. carniolicus. Descriptors of microhabitats as well as spatial data were recorded in the field, and analysed with a mixed-effects ANOVA.
Key Results
Extensive variation in DNA ploidy levels (2x, 3x, 4x, 5x, 6x, 7x, 8x, 9x) was detected. Of the main cytotypes, diploids and hexaploids were widespread and had strongly overlapping distributions resulting in the frequent occurrence of cytotype mixtures (half of the investigated populations), whereas tetraploids were disjunctly distributed and occurred in the south-west and the east of the species' distribution area. In spite of the frequent co-occurrence of cytotypes, only 1 % of the samples belonged to secondary cytotypes (3x, 5x, 7x, 8x, 9x). Diploids, tetraploids and hexaploids were altitudinally segregated, but with broad overlap. Similarly, highly significant differences in vegetation and rock cover as well as microhabitat exposure were found between the main cytotypes.
Senecio carniolicus shows a remarkable diversity of cytotypes. The distribution of the three main cytotypes (2x, 4x, 6x) has been shaped by Pleistocene glaciations to different extents. Whereas tetraploids are nearly entirely restricted to refugia, hexaploids colonized areas that were extensively glaciated. Diploid and hexaploid individuals often co-occur in mixed populations, where they are spatially and ecologically segregated at both the meso-scale (altitudinal differentiation, exposure of the growing site) and the micro-scale (cover of vegetation and bare rock). With regard to the ecological parameters investigated, the tetraploid cytotype occupies an intermediate position. The rareness of secondary cytotypes suggests the presence of strong pre- or post-zygotic mating barriers.
PMCID: PMC2990664  PMID: 20880930
Contact zones; cytotype mixture; Eastern Alps; flow cytometry; habitat segregation; ploidy level; polyploidy; refugia; Senecio carniolicus
3.  Towards resolving the Knautia arvensis agg. (Dipsacaceae) puzzle: primary and secondary contact zones and ploidy segregation at landscape and microgeographic scales 
Annals of Botany  2009;103(6):963-974.
Background and Aims
Detailed knowledge of variations in ploidy levels and their geographic distributions is one of the key tasks faced in polyploid research in natural systems. Flow cytometry has greatly facilitated the field of cytogeography by allowing characterization of ploidy levels at both the regional and population scale, and at multiple stages of the life cycle. In the present study, flow cytometry was employed to investigate the patterns and dynamics of ploidy variation in the taxonomically challenging complex Knautia arvensis (Dipsacaceae) and some of its allies (K. dipsacifolia, K. slovaca) in Central Europe.
DNA ploidy levels were estimated by DAPI flow cytometry in 5205 adult plants, 228 seedlings and 400 seeds collected from 292 Knautia populations in seven European countries. The flow cytometric data were supplemented with conventional chromosome counts. A subset of 79 accessions was subjected to estimation of the absolute genome size using propidium iodide flow cytometry.
Key Results and Conclusions
Five different ploidy levels (from 2x to 6x) were found, with triploids of K. arvensis being recorded for the first time. The species also exhibited variation in the monoploid genome size, corresponding to the types of habitats occupied (grassland diploid populations had larger genome sizes than relict and subalpine diploid populations). Disregarding relict populations, the distribution of 2x and 4x cytotypes was largely parapatric, with a diffuse secondary contact zone running along the north-west margin of the Pannonian basin. Spatial segregation of the cytotypes was also observed on regional and microgeographic scales. The newly detected sympatric growth of diploids and tetraploids in isolated relict habitats most likely represents the primary zone of cytotype contact. Ploidy level was found to be a major determinant of the strength of inter-cytotype reproductive barriers. While mixed 2x + 4x populations virtually lacked the intermediate ploidy level at any ontogenetic stage, pentaploid hybrids were common in 4x +6x populations, despite the cytotypes representing different taxonomic entities.
PMCID: PMC2707883  PMID: 19196717
Contact zone; cytogeography; flow cytometry; genome size; hybridization; Knautia arvensis; ploidy mixture; polyploidy; relict; reproductive isolation; serpentine

Results 1-3 (3)