Mountain ranges in the circum-Mediterranean area, with the Balkan Peninsula in particular, are hotspots of European biodiversity, with the most remarkable element being the high level of endemism in the Balkan Peninsula. With the intention of explanation of this phenomenon, we use a model plant genus Wulfenia to address the objectives within the proposed project: (a) ascertainment of molecular phylogenetic hypoteses on the relationships of the study genus both to its closest relatives as well as within the genus; (b) testing the Pleistocene speciation hypothesis: long distance dispersal or vicarism?; (c) ascertainment of comparitive phylogeographic hypotheses within species and species groups; (d) identifying the putative centres of origin of the study group based on phylogenetic and phylogeographic patterns; (e) identifying the migration paths between the disjunct populations; (f) defining the timing of the colonisation of the present disjunct distribution range. All the material of the genus Wulfenia will be collected in the field, while that of the related genera also herbarium material will be used. Research will be carried out applying both classical [e.g. morphometrics, cladistics] as well as modern molecular methods [DNA-sequencing, cpDNA haplotype analysis, DNA-fingerprinting (AFLP), biogeographical analysis, molecular dating]. Our results, which are also of high relevance for conservation purpouses, will significantly contribute to a broader basis addressing the questions going beyond the study group, e.g. biogeography of the Middle East, southern Europe and Asia.
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