Recent phylogeographical studies have re-evaluated the role of refugia in central and northern Europe for glacial persistence and postglacial assembly of temperate biota. Yet, on a regional scale within Mediterranean peninsulas, putative 'northern' refugia's contribution to the current structure of biodiversity still needs to be fully appreciated. To this end, we investigated the phylogeographical structure and the evolutionary history of the Italian smooth newt, Lissotriton vulgaris meridionalis, through phylogeographical, molecular dating and historical demographic analyses. We found ten differentiated mitochondrial lineages with a clear geographical association, mainly distributed in northern Italy. The most ancient divergence among these lineages was estimated at the Early Pleistocene and was followed by a series of splits throughout the Middle Pleistocene. No haplogroup turned out to be derived from another one, each one occupying terminal positions within the phylogenetic network topologies. These results suggest an unprecedented scenario involving long-term survival of distinct evolutionary lineages in multiple northern Mediterranean refugia. This scenario mirrors on a smaller geographical scale what has been previously observed in the literature concerning northern European environments; it also sheds more light on how northern Italy has contributed to temperate species' long-term survival and to the assembly of regional biota.
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