Multilocus genetic analyses provide insight into speciation and hybridization in aquatic grasses, genus Ruppia | EMBRC

Multilocus genetic analyses provide insight into speciation and hybridization in aquatic grasses, genus Ruppia

2016.04.28

Multilocus genetic analyses provide insight into speciation and hybridization in aquatic grasses, genus Ruppia

Aquatic plants of the genus Ruppia inhabit some of the most threatened habitats in the world, such as coastal lagoons and inland saline to brackish waters where their meadows play several key roles. The evolutionary history of this genus has been affected by the processes of hybridization, polyploidization, and vicariance, which have resulted in uncertainty regarding the number of species. In the present study, we apply microsatellite markers for the identification, genetic characterization, and detection of hybridization events among populations of putative Ruppia species found in the southern Iberian Peninsula, with the exception of a clearly distinct species, the diploid Ruppia maritima. Microsatellite markers group the populations into genetically distinct entities that are not coincident with geographical location and contain unique diagnostic alleles. These results support the interpretation of these entities as distinct species: designated here as (1) Ruppia drepanensis, (2) Ruppia cf. maritima, and (3) Ruppia cirrhosa. A fourth distinct genetic entity was identified as a putative hybrid between R. cf. maritima and R. cirrhosa because it contained a mixture of microsatellite alleles that are otherwise unique to these putative species. Hence, our analyses were able to discriminate among different genetic entities of Ruppia and, by adding multilocus nuclear markers, we confirm hybridization as an important process of speciation within the genus. In addition, careful taxonomic curation of the samples enabled us to determine the genotypic and genetic diversity and differentiation among populations of each putative Ruppia species. This will be important for identifying diversity hotspots and evaluating patterns of population genetic connectivity.

 

Keywords: microsatellites; plant speciation; polyploidy

Marta , Evangelista | CCMAR - Centre of Marine Sciences/University of Algarve

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