Organelle DNA phylogeography of Cycas taitungensis, a relict species in Taiwan


Tzen-Yuh Chiang. Fax: +886-62742 583; E-mail:


The phylogegraphic pattern of Cycas taitungensis, an endemic species with two remaining populations in Taiwan, was investigated based on genetic variability and phylogeny of the atpB-rbcL noncoding spacer of chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) and the ribosomal DNA (rDNA) internal transcribed spacer (ITS) of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). High levels of genetic variation at both organelle loci, due to frequent intramolecular recombination, and low levels of genetic differentiation were detected in the relict gymnosperm. The apportionment of genetic variation within and between populations agreed with a migrant-pool model, which describes a migratory pattern with colonists recruited from a random sample of earlier existing populations. Phylogenies obtained from cpDNA and mtDNA were discordant according to neighbour-joining analyses. In total four chlorotypes (clades I–IV) and five mitotypes (clades A–E) were identified based on minimum spanning networks of each locus. Significant linkage disequilibrium in mitotype–chlorotype associations excluded the possibility of the recurrent homoplasious mutations as the major force causing phylogenetic inconsistency. The most abundant chlorotype I was associated with all mitotypes and the most abundant mitotype C with all chlorotypes; no combinations of rare mitotypes with rare chlorotypes were found. According to nested clade analyses, such nonrandom associations may be ascribed to relative ages among alleles associated with the geological history through which cycads evolved. Nested in networks as interior nodes coupled with wide geographical distribution, the most dominant cytotypes of CI and EI may represent ancestral haplotypes of C. taitungensis with a possible long existence prior to the Pleistocene glacial maximum. In contrast, rare chlorotypes and mitotypes with restricted and patchy distribution may have relatively recent origins. Newly evolved genetic elements of mtDNA, with a low frequency, were likely to be associated with the dominant chlorotype, and vice versa, resulting in the nonrandom mitotype–chlorotype associations. Paraphyly of CI and EI cytotypes, leading to the low level of genetic differentiation between cycad populations, indicated a short period for isolation, which allowed low possibilities of the attainment of coalescence at polymorphic ancestral alleles.