Pervasive hybridization during evolutionary radiation of Rhododendron subgenus Hymenanthes in mountains of southwest China

Yazhen Ma, Xingxing Mao, Ji Wang, Lei Zhang, Yuanzhong Jiang, Yuying Geng, Tao Ma, Liming Cai, Shuangquan Huang, Pete Hollingsworth, Kangshan Mao, Minghui Kang, Yiling Li, Wenlu Yang, Haolin Wu, Yang Chen, Charles C Davis, Nawal Shrestha, Richard H Ree, Zhenxiang XiQuanjun Hu, Richard I Milne, Jianquan Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Radiations are especially important for generating species biodiversity in mountainous ecosystems. The contribution of hybridization to such radiations has rarely been examined. Here, we use extensive genomic data to test whether hybridization was involved in evolutionary radiation within Rhododendron subgenus Hymenanthes, whose members show strong geographic isolation in the mountains of southwest China. We sequenced genomes for 143 species of this subgenus and 93 species of four other subgenera, and found that Hymenanthes was monophyletic and radiated during the late Oligocene to middle Miocene. Widespread hybridization events were inferred within and between the identified clades and subclades. This suggests that hybridization occurred both early and late during diversification of subgenus Hymenanthes, although the extent to which hybridization, speciation through mixing-isolation-mixing or hybrid speciation, accelerated the diversification needs further exploration. Cycles of isolation and contact in such and other montane ecosystems may have together promoted species radiation through hybridization between diverging populations and species. Similar radiation processes may apply to other montane floras in this region and elsewhere.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbernwac276
Number of pages11
JournalNational Science Review
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • evolutionary radiation
  • hybridization
  • rhododendron
  • subgenus Hymenanthes
  • montane flora


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