- Despite substantial investigations into Oryza phylogeny and evolution, reliable estimates of the divergence times and ancestral effective population sizes of major lineages in Oryza are challenging.
- We sampled sequences of 106 single-copy nuclear genes from all six diploid genomes of Oryza to investigate the divergence times through extensive relaxed molecular clock analyses and estimated the ancestral effective population sizes using maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods.
- We estimated that Oryza originated in the middle Miocene (c. 13–15 million years ago; Ma) and obtained an explicit time frame for two rapid diversifications in this genus. The first diversification involving the extant F-/G-genomes and possibly the extinct H-/J-/K-genomes occurred in the middle Miocene immediately after (within < 1 Myr) the origin of Oryza. The second giving rise to the A-/B-/C-genomes happened c. 5–6 Ma. We found that ancestral effective population sizes were much larger than those of extant species in Oryza.
- We suggest that the climate fluctuations during the period from the middle Miocene to Pliocene may have contributed to the two rapid diversifications of Oryza species. Such information helps better understand the evolutionary history of Oryza and provides further insights into the pattern and mechanism of diversification in plants in general.