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Open Access Research article

Geological and climatic changes in quaternary shaped the evolutionary history of Calibrachoa heterophylla, an endemic South-Atlantic species of petunia

Geraldo Mäder1, Jéferson N Fregonezi1, Aline P Lorenz-Lemke1, Sandro L Bonatto2 and Loreta B Freitas1*

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory of Molecular Evolution - Department of Genetics, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil

2 Laboratory of Genomic and Molecular Biology, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:178  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-178

Published: 29 August 2013

Abstract

Background

The glacial and interglacial cycles that characterized the Quaternary greatly affected the distribution and genetic diversity of plants. In the Neotropics, few phylogeographic studies have focused on coastal species outside of the Atlantic Rainforest. Climatic and sea level changes during the Quaternary played an important role in the evolutionary history of many organisms found in coastal regions. To contribute to a better understanding of plant evolution in this environment in Southern South America, we focused on Calibrachoa heterophylla (Solanaceae), an endemic and vulnerable wild petunia species from the South Atlantic Coastal Plain (SACP).

Results

We assessed DNA sequences from two cpDNA intergenic spacers and analyzed them using a phylogeographic approach. The present phylogeographic study reveals the influence of complex geologic and climatic events on patterns of genetic diversification. The results indicate that C. heterophylla originated inland and subsequently colonized the SACP; the data show that the inland haplogroup is more ancient than the coastal one and that the inland was not affected by sea level changes in the Quaternary. The major diversification of C. heterophylla that occurred after 0.4 Myr was linked to sea level oscillations in the Quaternary, and any diversification that occurred before this time was obscured by marine transgressions that occurred before the coastal sand barrier’s formation. Results of the Bayesian skyline plot showed a recent population expansion detected in C. heterophylla seems to be related to an increase in temperature and humidity that occurred at the beginning of the Holocene.

Conclusions

The geographic clades have been formed when the coastal plain was deeply dissected by paleochannels and these correlate very well with the distributional limits of the clades. The four major sea transgressions formed a series of four sand barriers parallel to the coast that progressively increased the availability of coastal areas after the regressions and that may have promoted the geographic structuring of genetic diversity observed today. The recent population expansion for the entire species may be linked with the event of marine regression after the most recent sea transgression at ~5 kya.

Keywords:
South-Atlantic coastal plain; Phylogeography; Pleistocene; Quaternary; Genetic diversity; Climatic changes; Petunia