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Open Access Research article

High genetic diversity at the regional scale and possible speciation in Sebacina epigaea and S. incrustans

Kai Riess, Franz Oberwinkler, Robert Bauer and Sigisfredo Garnica*

Author Affiliations

Plant Evolutionary Ecology, Institute of Evolution and Ecology, University of Tübingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 1, 72076 Tübingen, Germany

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:102  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-102

Published: 22 May 2013



Phylogenetic studies, particularly those based on rDNA sequences from plant roots and basidiomata, have revealed a strikingly high genetic diversity in the Sebacinales. However, the factors determining this genetic diversity at higher and lower taxonomic levels within this order are still unknown. In this study, we analysed patterns of genetic variation within two morphological species, Sebacina epigaea and S. incrustans, based on 340 DNA haplotype sequences of independent genetic markers from the nuclear (ITS + 5.8S + D1/D2, RPB2) and mitochondrial (ATP6) genomes for 98 population samples. By characterising the genetic population structure within these species, we provide insights into species boundaries and the possible factors responsible for genetic diversity at a regional geographic scale.


We found that recombination events are relatively common between natural populations within Sebacina epigaea and S. incrustans, and play a significant role in generating intraspecific genetic diversity. Furthermore, we also found that RPB2 and ATP6 genes display higher levels of intraspecific synonymous polymorphism. Phylogenetic and demographic analyses based on nuclear and mitochondrial loci revealed three distinct phylogenetic lineages within of each of the morphospecies S. epigaea and S. incrustans: one major and widely distributed lineage, and two geographically restricted lineages, respectively. We found almost no differential morphological or ecological characteristics that could be used to discriminate between these lineages.


Our results suggest that recombination and negative selection have played significant roles in generating genetic diversity within these morphological species at small geographical scales. Concordance between gene genealogies identified lineages/cryptic species that have evolved independently for a relatively long period of time. These putative species were not associated with geographic provenance, geographic barrier, host preference or distinct phenotypic innovations.

Cryptic species; Speciation; Diversity; Population structure; Multilocus genealogies; Basidiomycota; Sebacinales; Sympatry; Synonymous polymorphism; Ectomycorrhiza