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Salix transect of Europe: variation in ploidy and genome size in willow-associated common nettle, Urtica dioica L. sens. lat., from Greece to arctic Norway

Cronk, Quentin; Hidalgo, Oriane; Pellicer, Jaume; Percy, Diana; Leitch, Ilia

The common stinging nettle, Urtica dioica L. sensu lato, is an invertebrate "superhost", its clonal patches maintaining large populations of insects and molluscs. It is extremely widespread in Europe and highly variable, and two ploidy levels (diploid and tetraploid) are known. However, geographical patterns in cytotype variation require further study.

We assembled a collection of nettles in conjunction with a transect of Europe from the Aegean to Arctic Norway (primarily conducted to examine the diversity of Salix and Salix-associated insects). Using flow cytometry to measure genome size, our sample of 29 plants reveals 5 diploids and 24 tetraploids. Two diploids were found in SE Europe (Bulgaria and Romania) and three diploids in S. Finland. More detailed cytotype surveys in these regions are suggested. The tetraploid genome size (2C value) varied between accessions from 2.36 to 2.59 pg. The diploids varied from 1.31 to 1.35 pg per 2C nucleus, equivalent to a haploid genome size of c. 650 Mbp. Within the tetraploids, we find that the most northerly samples (from N. Finland and arctic Norway) have a generally higher genome size. This is possibly indicative of a distinct population in this region.

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