Background and aims: Intra- and interspecific variations of C-values and the relationship between habitat factors and genome size were studied in natural populations of diploid and tetraploid wild wheats.
Methodology: The 1C nuclear DNA content of 376 individual plants representing 41 populations of diploid and tetraploid wild wheats was determined by flow cytometry (FCM) and correlated with geographical and bioclimate variables.
Principal results: Based on analysis of variance, significant differences between diploid and tetraploid Triticum species were found. Differences among populations of T. boeoticum and T. dicoccoides were also statistically significant and argue for isolation between populations, except for T. araraticum. However, the variation among individuals of the same population was not statistically significant. Maximum genome size differences among populations for T. boeoticum (0.143 pg; 2.32 %), T. dicoccoides (0.314 pg; 2.49 %) and T. araraticum (0.116 pg; 0.98 %) argue for genome constancy in these species. There was no significant correlation between intra-population variance and geographical and bioclimate variables for T. boeoticum and T. dicoccoides. In contrast to the limited genome size variation at the intraspecific level, the interspecific variation was large: ∼0.5 pg/1C (8 %) at the diploid level (T. boeoticum vs. T. urartu) and ∼1 pg/1C (9.7 %) at the tetraploid level (T. dicoccoides vs. T. araraticum).
Conclusions: Low intraspecific genome size variation occurs in diploid and tetraploid wild wheats, and this limited variation is not correlated with geographical and climate variables. However, interspecific variation is significant at the diploid and tetraploid level. It can be concluded that the genome size of wild self-fertilizing Triticum species is generally stable, despite the presence of many potentially active retroelements. In natural habitats, it is very difficult to distinguish wild wheats from each other. However, all four species can be distinguished easily, quickly and unambiguously by using the FCM technique.