Chloroplast DNA phylogeography of a distylous shrub (Palicourea padifolia, Rubiaceae) reveals past fragmentation and demographic expansion in Mexican cloud forests.Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2011 Dec; 61(3):603-15.MP
Several phylogeographic studies in northern Mesoamerica have examined the influence of Pleistocene glaciations on the genetic structure of temperate tree species with their southern limit by the contact zone between species otherwise characteristic of North or South America, but few have featured plant species that presumably colonized northern Mesoamerica from South America. A phylogeographical study of Palicourea padifolia, a fleshy-fruited, bird dispersed distylous shrub, was conducted to investigate genetic variation at two chloroplast regions (trnS-trnG and rpl32-trnL) across cloud forest areas to determine if such patterns are consistent with the presence of Pleistocene refugia and/or with the historical fragmentation of the Mexican cloud forests. We conducted population and spatial genetic analyses as well as phylogenetic and isolation with migration analyses on 122 individuals from 22 populations comprising the distribution of P. padifolia in Mexico to gain insight of the evolutionary history of these populations. Twenty-six haplotypes were identified after sequencing 1389 bp of chloroplast DNA. These haplotypes showed phylogeographic structure (N(ST) = 0.508, G(ST) = 0.337, N(ST) > G(ST), P < 0.05), including a phylogeographic break at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, with private haplotypes at either side of the isthmus, and a divergence time of the split in the absence of gene flow dating back c. 309,000-103,000 years ago. The patterns of geographic structure found in this study are consistent with past fragmentation and demographic range expansion, supporting the role of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec as a biogeographical barrier in the dispersal of P. padifolia. Our data suggest that P. padifolia populations were isolated throughout glacial cycles by the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, accumulating genetic differences due to the lack of migration across the isthmus in either direction, but the results of our study are not consistent with the existence of the previously proposed Pleistocene refugia for rain forest plant species in the region.