Multiple paternally inherited chloroplast capture events associated with Taxus speciation in the Hengduan Mountains

Han-Tao Qin, Michael Mӧller, Richard Milne, Ya-Huang Luo, Guang-Fu Zhu, De-Zhu Li, Jie Liu, Lian-Ming Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Mountainous regions provide a multitude of habitats and opportunities for complex speciation scenarios. Hybridization leading to chloroplast capture, which can be revealed by incongruent phylogenetic trees, is one possible outcome. Four allopatric Taxus lineages (three species and an undescribed lineage) from the Hengduan Mountains, southwest China, exhibit conflicting phylogenetic relationships between nuclear and chloroplast phylogenies. Here, we use multi-omic data at the population level to investigate their historical speciation processes. Population genomic analysis based on ddRAD-seq data revealed limited contemporary inter-specific gene flow involving only populations located close to another species. In a historical context, chloroplast and nuclear data (transcriptome) consistently showed conflicting phylogenetic relationships for T. florinii and the Emei type lineage. ILS and chloroplast recombination were excluded as possible causes, and transcriptome and ddRAD-seq data revealed an absence of the mosaic nuclear genomes that characterize hybrid origin scenarios. Therefore, T. florinii appears to have originated when a lineage of T. florinii captured the T. chinensis plastid type, whereas plastid introgression in the opposite direction generated the Emei Type. All four species have a distinct ecological niche based on community investigations and ecological niche analyses. We propose that the origins of both these species represent very rare examples of chloroplast capture events despite the paternal cpDNA inheritance of gymnosperms. Specifically, allopatrically and/or ecologically diverged parental species experienced a rare secondary contact, subsequent hybridization and reciprocal chloroplast capture, generating two new lineages, each of which acquired a unique ecological niche. These events might have been triggered by orogenic activities of the Hengduan Mountains and an intensification of the Asian monsoon in the late Miocene, and may represent a scenario more common in these mountains than presently known.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages41
JournalMolecular phylogenetics and evolution
Early online date2 Sept 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Sept 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • chloroplast capture
  • genomic data
  • hybridization
  • Hengduan Mountains
  • phylogeny tree discordance
  • Taxus


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