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Species-level phylogeographical history of Myricaria plants in the mountain ranges of western China and the origin of M. laxiflora in the Three Gorges mountain region

Authors


Hongwen Huang, Fax: +86-20-37252831; E-mail: huanghw@mail.scbg.ac.cn

Abstract

Myricaria species in China occur mostly in the major high-altitude mountain areas in and around the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. The one major exception to this is M. laxiflora which is restricted to the Three Gorges mountain region. In this study, we investigate species-level phylogeographical patterns of Myricaria species in western China and the origin of M. laxiflora. The results show that most chloroplast haplotypes are species-specific, except for one haplotype which is shared by three widespread species. Higher haplotype diversity within the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau region supports the hypothesis that the Himalayas are the centre of origin for Myricaria. The phylogeny of Myricaria was geographically structured, and an estimated Bayesian chronology suggested the main divergence events occurred during the Late Pliocene and Early Pleistocene (~1.46–2.30 million years ago). The overall phylogeographical pattern was characterized by vicariance events and regional demographical expansion, reflecting a major influence of geological and climatic events on the evolution of Myricaria species. Our data suggest that M. laxiflora has an ancient origin, but has experienced recent population expansion through the Three Gorges Valley. The origin of M. laxiflora was estimated to be during the Early Pleistocene but its demographical expansion was more recent at about 0.015 million years ago. This highlights the unique phylogeographical history of the Three Gorges mountain region, and the deep imprint of the watercourse connections of the Yangtze River Valley on the phylogeographical structure of the species in this region.

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