The Mediterranean species complex of Senecio serves to illustrate evolutionary processes that are likely to confound phylogenetic inference, including rapid diversification, gene tree-species tree discordance, reticulation, interlocus concerted evolution, and lack of complete lineage sorting. Phylogeographic patterns of chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) haplotype variation were studied by sampling 156 populations (502 individuals) across 18 species of the complex, and a species phylogeny was reconstructed based on sequences from the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions of nuclear ribosomal DNA. For a subset of species, randomly amplified polymorphic DNAs (RAPDs) provided reference points for comparison with the cpDNA and ITS datasets. Two classes of cpDNA haplotypes were identified, with each predominating in certain parts of the Mediterranean region. However, with the exception of S. gallicus, intraspecific phylogeographic structure is limited, and only a few haplotypes detected were species-specific. Nuclear sequence divergence is low, and several unresolved phylogenetic groupings are suggestive of near simultaneous diversification. Two well-supported ITS clades contain the majority of species, amongst which there is a pronounced sharing of cpDNA haplotypes. Our data are not capable of diagnosing the relative impact of reticulation versus insufficient lineage sorting for the entire complex. However, there is firm evidence that S. flavus subsp. breviflorus and S. rupestris have acquired cpDNA haplotypes and ITS sequences from co-occurring species by reticulation. In contrast, insufficient lineage sorting is a viable hypothesis for cpDNA haplotypes shared between S. gallicus and its close relatives. We estimated the minimum coalescent times for these haplotypes by utilizing the inferred species phylogeny and associated divergence times. Our data suggest that ancestral cpDNA polymorphisms may have survived for ca. 0.4–1.0 million years, depending on molecular clock calibrations.
Corresponding Editor: D. Baum