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Next-Gen phylogeography of rainforest trees: exploring landscape-level cpDNA variation from whole-genome sequencing

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Abstract

Standardized phylogeographic studies across codistributed taxa can identify important refugia and biogeographic barriers, and potentially uncover how changes in adaptive constraints through space and time impact on the distribution of genetic diversity. The combination of next-generation sequencing and methodologies that enable uncomplicated analysis of the full chloroplast genome may provide an invaluable resource for such studies. Here, we assess the potential of a shotgun-based method across twelve nonmodel rainforest trees sampled from two evolutionary distinct regions. Whole genomic shotgun sequencing libraries consisting of pooled individuals were used to assemble species-specific chloroplast references (in silicio). For each species, the pooled libraries allowed for the detection of variation within and between data sets (each representing a geographic region). The potential use of nuclear rDNA as an additional marker from the NGS libraries was investigated by mapping reads against available references. We successfully obtained phylogeographically informative sequence data from a range of previously unstudied rainforest trees. Greater levels of diversity were found in northern refugial rainforests than in southern expansion areas. The genetic signatures of varying evolutionary histories were detected, and interesting associative patterns between functional characteristics and genetic diversity were identified. This approach can suit a wide range of landscape-level studies. As the key laboratory-based steps do not require prior species-specific knowledge and can be easily outsourced, the techniques described here are even suitable for researchers without access to wet-laboratory facilities, making evolutionary ecology questions increasingly accessible to the research community.

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