Marques, I., Loureiro, J., Draper, D., Castro, M. & Castro, S. (2018) How much do we know about the frequency of hybridisation and polyploidy in the Mediterranean region?Plant Biology, 20(S1), 21-37). DOI:10.1111/plb.12639 (IF2017 2,156; Q2 Plant Sciences)
Natural hybridisation and polyploidy are currently recognised as drivers of biodiversity, despite early scepticism about their importance. The Mediterranean region is a biodiversity hotspot where geological and climatic events have created numerous opportunities for speciation through hybridisation and polyploidy. Still, our knowledge on the frequency of these mechanisms in the region is largely limited, despite both phenomena are frequently cited in studies of Mediterranean plants. We reviewed information available from biodiversity and cytogenetic databases to provide the first estimates of hybridisation and polyploidy frequency in the Mediterranean region. We also inspected the most comprehensive modern Mediterranean Flora (Flora iberica) to survey the frequency and taxonomic distribution of hybrids and polyploids in Iberian Peninsula. We found that <6% of Mediterranean plants were hybrids, although a higher frequency was estimated for the Iberian Peninsula (13%). Hybrids were concentrated in few families and in even fewer genera. The overall frequency of polyploidy (36.5%) was comparable with previous estimates in other regions; however our estimates increased when analysing the Iberian Peninsula (48.8%). A surprisingly high incidence of species harbouring two or more ploidy levels was also observed (21.7%). A review of the available literature also showed that the ecological factors driving emergence and establishment of new entities are still poorly studied in the Mediterranean flora, although geographic barriers seem to play a major role in polyploid complexes. Finally, this study reveals several gaps and limitations in our current knowledge about the frequency of hybridisation and polyploidy in the Mediterranean region. The obtained estimates might change in the future with the increasing number of studies; still, rather than setting the complete reality, we hope that this work triggers future studies on hybridisation and polyploidy in the Mediterranean region.