Relics or not Relics Thats the Question

The genetic analyses of different species with alpine and arctic-alpine disjunct distribution patterns unravel a great variety of different biogeographical patterns and considerable differences in the time frames of the vicariance and/or dispersal events. Most often, separations in arctic-alpine species between the Northern populations and the high mountain systems in central and Southern Europe (often the Alps) are recent (i.e., post-glacial) phenomena. In alpine disjunct and in arctic-alpine species, adjoining high mountain systems often own the same genetic lineage (as, e.g., shown by multiple genetic links between the Western Alps and the Pyrenees, the Eastern Alps and the Carpathians, and the Southeastern Alps and the Dinaric mountain systems), thus underlining a recent (in most cases post-glacial) vicariance or dispersal event in the respective genetic lineage. A similar situation is often found in high and low mountain systems in geographic proximity (e.g., Northeastern Alps and Bayerischer Wald) or in neighbouring low mountains, e.g., in Germany. These areas thus harbour young relic populations that may result from large zonal distributions of such taxa in the tundra belt during the last ice age.

The most basal and thus oldest splits in arctic-alpine and alpine disjunct species are commonly found in the Southernmost European high mountain systems with typical alpine zonation. The Cordillera Cantábrica in this respect represents one important mountain area for the survival of old genetic entities, but also the high mountain systems of the Balkan Peninsula and to some degree the Pyrenees show importance as areas for the survival of old lineages, which can be interpreted as relics of cold stages of a more distant past.

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