Maintenance of species differences in closely related tetraploid parasitic Euphrasia (Orobanchaceae) on an isolated island

Hannes Becher, Max R Brown, Gavin Powell, Chris Metherell, Nick J Riddiford, Alexander D Twyford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Polyploidy is pervasive in angiosperm evolution and plays important roles in adaptation and speciation. However, polyploid groups are understudied due to complex sequence homology, challenging genome assembly, and taxonomic complexity. Here we study adaptive divergence in taxonomically complex eyebrights (Euphrasia), where recent divergence, phenotypic plasticity, and hybridisation blur species boundaries. We focus on three closely-related tetraploid species with contrasting ecological preferences, and which are sympatric on Fair Isle, a small isolated island in the British Isles. Using a common garden experiment, we show a genetic component to the morphological differences present between these species. Using whole genome sequencing and a novel k-mer approach we call “Tetmer”, we demonstrate that the species are of allopolyploid origin, with sub-genome divergence of approximately 5%. Using ~2 million SNPs we show sub-genome homology across species, with very low sequence divergence characteristic of recent speciation. This genetic variation is broadly structured by species, with clear divergence of Fair Isle heathland E. micrantha, while grassland E. arctica and coastal E. foulaensis are more closely related. Overall, we show tetraploid Euphrasia are a system of allopolyploids of postglacial species divergence, where adaptation to novel environments may be conferred by old variants rearranged into new genetic lineages.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100105
Number of pages15
JournalPlant Communications
Issue number6
Early online date1 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • incipient speciation
  • k-mer spectrum
  • allopolyploidy
  • tetraploid
  • divergence with gene flow
  • taxonomic complexity


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