Molecular Analysis of Plant Migration and Refugia in the Arctic

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Science  25 Aug 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5483, pp. 1343-1346
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5483.1343

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The arctic flora is thought to have originated during the late Tertiary, approximately 3 million years ago. Plant migration routes during colonization of the Arctic are currently unknown, and uncertainty remains over where arctic plants survived Pleistocene glaciations. A phylogenetic analysis of chloroplast DNA variation in the purple saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) indicates that this plant first occurred in the Arctic in western Beringia before it migrated east and west to achieve a circumpolar distribution. The geographical distribution of chloroplast DNA variation in the species supports the hypothesis that, during Pleistocene glaciations, some plant refugia were located in the Arctic as well as at more southern latitudes.

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