Influence of Pleistocene glacial/interglacial cycles on the genetic structure of the mistletoe cactus Rhipsalis baccifera (Cactaceae) in Mesoamerica.J Hered. 2015 Mar-Apr; 106(2):196-210.JH
Phylogeographical work on cloud forest-adapted species provides inconsistent evidence on cloud forest dynamics during glacial cycles. A study of Rhipsalis baccifera (Cactaceae), a bird-dispersed epiphytic mistletoe cactus, was conducted to investigate genetic variation at sequence data from nuclear [internal transcribed spacer (ITS), 677 bp] and chloroplast (rpl32-trnL, 1092bp) DNA for 154 individuals across the species range in Mesoamerica to determine if such patterns are consistent with the expansion/contraction model of cloud forest during glacial cycles. We conducted population and spatial genetic analyses as well as gene flow and divergence time estimates between 24 populations comprising the distribution of R. baccifera in Mexico and Guatemala to gain insight of the evolutionary history of these populations, and a complementary species distribution modeling approach to frame information derived from the genetic analyses into an explicit paleoecological context. The results revealed a phylogeographical break at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and high levels of genetic diversity among populations and cloud forest areas. Despite the genetic differentiation of some R. baccifera populations, the widespread ITS ribotypes suggest effective nuclear gene flow via pollen and population differentiation shown by the rpl32-trnL suggests more restricted seed flow. Predictions of species distribution models under past last glacial maximum (LGM) climatic conditions and a significant signal of demographic expansion suggest that R. baccifera populations experienced a range expansion tracking the conditions of the cloud forest distribution and shifted to the lowlands with population connectivity during the LGM.