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Arctic-alpine plants in the genus Saxifraga L. (Saxifragaceae Juss.) provide an excellent system for investigating the process of diversification in northern regions. Yet, sect.Trachyphyllum (Gaud.) Koch, which is comprised of about 8 to 26 species, has still not been explored by molecular systematists even though taxonomists concur that the section needs to be thoroughly re-examined. Our goals were to use chloroplast trnL-F and nuclear ITS DNA sequence data to circumscribe the section phylogenetically, test models of geographically-based population divergence, and assess the utility of morphological characters in estimating evolutionary relationships. To do so, we sequenced both genetic markers for 19 taxa within the section. The phylogenetic inferences of sect. Trachyphyllum using maximum likelihood and Bayesian analyses showed that the section is polyphyletic, with S. aspera L. and S bryoidesL. falling outside the main clade. In addition, the analyses supported several taxonomic re-classifications to prior names. We used two approaches to test biogeographic hypotheses: i) a coalescent approach in Mesquite to test the fit of our reconstructed gene trees to geographically-based models of population divergence and ii) a maximum likelihood inference in Lagrange. These tests uncovered strong support for an origin of the clade in the Southern Rocky Mountains of North America followed by dispersal and divergence episodes across refugia. Finally we adopted a stochastic character mapping approach in SIMMAP to investigate the utility of morphological characters in estimating evolutionary relationships among taxa. We found that few morphological characters were phylogenetically informative and many were misleading. Our molecular analyses provide a foundation for the diversity and evolutionary relationships within sect. Trachyphyllum and hypotheses for better understanding the patterns and processes of divergence in this section, other saxifrages, and plants inhabiting the North Pacific Rim.

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Plos One





Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Saxifragaceae--Arctic regions; Saxifraga--Evolution; Saxifraga-Geographical distribution; Plants--Classification; Plants--Frost Resistance; Vegetation and climate

Geographic Coverage

Arctic regions





Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.





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Biology Commons