Background: New Caledonia harbours a highly diverse and endemic flora, and 13 (out of the 19 worldwide) species of Araucaria are endemic to this territory. Their phylogenetic relationships remain largely unresolved. Using nuclear microsatellites and chloroplast DNA sequencing, we focused on five closely related Araucaria species to investigate among-species relationships and the distribution of within-species genetic diversity across New Caledonia.
Conclusions: The study species probably diverged recently and/or are characterized by a slow rate of cpDNA sequence evolution, and introgression is strongly suspected. Within-species genetic structure is tightly linked with geography. We underline the conservation implications of our results, and highlight several perspectives.
Results: The species could be clearly distinguished here, except A. montana and A. laubenfelsii that were not differentiated and, at most, form a genetic cline. Given their apparent morphological and ecological similarity, we suggested that these two species may be considered as a single evolutionary unit. We observed cases of nuclear admixture and incongruence between nuclear and chloroplast data, probably explained by introgression and shared ancestral polymorphism. Ancient hybridization was evidenced between A. biramulata and A. laubenfelsii in Mt Do, and is strongly suspected between A. biramulata and A. rulei in Mt Tonta. In both cases, extensive asymmetrical backcrossing eliminated the influence of one parent in the nuclear DNA composition. Shared ancestral polymorphism was also observed for cpDNA, suggesting that species diverged recently, have large effective sizes and/or that cpDNA experienced slow rates of molecular evolution. Within-species genetic structure was pronounced, probably because of low gene flow and significant inbreeding, and appeared clearly influenced by geography. This may be due to survival in distinct refugia during Quaternary climatic oscillations.
- Closely related species
- Population genetics