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Genetic Diversity of Island Endemics in the Mediterranean Region: Comparison between Oceanic and Continental Islands

Gesuchsteller/in Meloni Marilena
Nummer 129170
Förderungsinstrument Marie Heim-Voegtlin Beiträge
Forschungseinrichtung Institut für Systematische Botanik und Botanischer Garten Universität Zürich
Hochschule Universität Zürich - ZH
Hauptdisziplin Oekologie
Beginn/Ende 01.03.2010 - 30.11.2012
Bewilligter Betrag 292'921.00
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Alle Disziplinen (2)


Keywords (7)

Islands; Endemic species; Mediterranean basin; Genetic variability; AFLP; Long distance dispersal; Vicariant speciation

Lay Summary (Englisch)

Lay summary
Islands constitute unique ecosystems, often comprising species found nowhere else on Earth. These endemisms, characterised by a unique evolutionary history, represent irreplaceable natural treasures.
Extensive knowledge of the amount and distribution of species genetic diversity, and of the mechanisms that underlay this diversity, is fundamental to preserve these natural resourses.
Insular species are often rare and/or endangered. One reason for their susceptibility is the low level of genetic diversity that usually characterises these species: genetic variation allows populations to evolve; low levels of this "evolutionary potential" limit their ability to adapt in response to environmental changes.
Genetic diversity of insular species has been influenced by the evolutionary history of their islands and, consequently, by the patterns of colonisation and speciation with which species originated.
Oceanic islands (i.e. Galapagos, Hawaii, Canary) emerged from the bottom of the ocean bare of life. They have never been connected to any continental mass and their colonisation occurred mainly by over water dispersal. Species originate by the adaptation to new environments.
Continental islands instead (i.e. Madagascar, Balearic, Corsica and Sardinia) formed by break-up of continental plates. Species are a subset of the mainland species pool; long periods of isolation lead to an independent evolution and the formation of unique species.
The purpose of this project is to study the genetic structure of endemic species in two different types of islands, i.e. oceanic and continental, in order to understand how different processes of species diversification can shape genetic diversity.
We will analyse the genetic structure of five species belonging to the genus Ruta (model plant) endemic to Corsica, Sardinia (model for continental islands) and Canary islands (model for oceanic islands).
This project addresses a fundamental question in both evolutionary and conservation biology, which is the influence of different colonisation patterns and models of speciation in shaping the genetic structure of endemic species.
Our comparison between oceanic and continental islands will provide important information on the genetic effects of isolation and different colonisation processes. This will provide insight on possible consequences of similar processes occurring at present (i.e. habitat fragmentation, species invasion in response to global warming). Besides, knowledge on the genetic variability of endemic species is fundamental for maintaining species' survival in a changing environment and to direct conservation programs.
Direktlink auf Lay Summary Letzte Aktualisierung: 21.02.2013

Verantw. Gesuchsteller/in und weitere Gesuchstellende



Gruppe / Person Land
Formen der Zusammenarbeit
University of La Laguna, Tenerife Spanien (Europa)
- vertiefter/weiterführender Austausch von Ansätzen, Methoden oder Resultaten
- Publikation
Jardín Botánico Canario "Viera y Clavijo" Spanien (Europa)
- vertiefter/weiterführender Austausch von Ansätzen, Methoden oder Resultaten
- Publikation
University of Cagliari Italien (Europa)
- vertiefter/weiterführender Austausch von Ansätzen, Methoden oder Resultaten
- Publikation
Conservatoire Botanique National de Corse Frankreich (Europa)
- vertiefter/weiterführender Austausch von Ansätzen, Methoden oder Resultaten
- Publikation

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Islands, with their endemisms, represent unique ecosystems and ideal natural laboratories to study the evolution of wild organisms.This project aims to analyse the genetic structure of island endemic species and understand how vicariant speciation versus long distance dispersal may have influenced their evolution.We will study the evolution of Mediterranean insular endemisms in “oceanic islands”, colonised ex-novo by species which evolved in situ, and “continental fragment islands”, which harbour species that previously had a more extensive distribution.A population genetic analysis will be performed on five endemic species of Ruta from oceanic or continental-fragment islands. Different outcomes in the genetic structure of populations will indicate how isolation and colonisation have built genetic diversity, thus providing information on possible effects of similar processes occurring in the present. Besides, knowledge on the genetic variability of endemic species is fundamental for maintaining their long-term survival in a changing environment.