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Cyto-nuclear discordance in the phylogeny of Ficus section Galoglychia and host shifts in plant-pollinator associations

Julien P Renoult1, Finn Kjellberg1*, Cinderella Grout23, Sylvain Santoni4 and Bouchaïb Khadari25

Author Affiliations

1 CNRS, UMR 5175 Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), Equipe Interactions Biotiques, F-34293 Montpellier Cedex 5, France

2 INRA, UMR 1098, Développement et Amélioration des Plantes (DAP), Campus CIRAD TA A 96/03, Av. Agropolis, 34398 Montpellier Cedex 5, France

3 Montpellier SupAgro, UMR 1098, Développement et Amélioration des Plantes (DAP), Bat. 2, Campus CIRAD TA A 96/03, Av. Agropolis, 34398 Montpellier Cedex 5, France

4 INRA, UMR 1097, Diversité et Adaptation des Plantes Cultivées (DiA-PC), Bat. 33, 2 place Viala, 34060 Montpellier Cedex 2, France

5 Conservatoire Botanique National Méditerranéen de Porquerolles, UMR 1098, 76 A, Av. Gambetta, 83400 Hyères, France

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:248  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-248

Published: 12 October 2009



Hybridization events are relatively common in vascular plants. However, the frequency of these events is unevenly distributed across the plant phylogeny. Plant families in which individual species are pollinated by specific pollinator species are predicted to be less prone to hybridization than other families. However, exceptions may occur within these families, when pollinators shift host-plant species. Indeed, host shifts are expected to increase the rate of hybridization events. Pollinators of Ficus section Galoglychia are suspected to have changed host repeatedly, based on several cases of incongruence between plant phylogeny and taxonomy, and insect phylogeny and taxonomy. We tracked cyto-nuclear discordance across section Galoglychia as evidence for hybridization. To achieve a proper global view, we first clarified the monophyly of section Galoglychia as it had been questioned by recent phylogenetic studies. Moreover, we investigated if fig size could be a factor facilitating host shifts.


Phylogenetic chloroplast and nuclear results demonstrated the monophyly of section Galoglychia. Within section Galoglychia, we detected several cases of statistically significant cyto-nuclear discordance. Discordances concern both terminal nodes of the phylogenetic trees and one deep node defining relationships between subsections. Because nuclear phylogeny is congruent with morphological taxonomy, discordances were caused by the chloroplast phylogeny. Introgressive hybridization was the most likely explanation for these discordances. We also detected that subsections pollinated by several wasp genera had smaller figs and were pollinated by smaller wasps than subsections pollinated by a single wasp genus.


As hypothesized, we discovered evidences of past hybridization in Ficus section Galoglychia. Further, introgression was only detected in subsections presenting incongruence between plant and pollinator phylogenies and taxonomy. This supports the hypothesis that host shift is the cause for plant-pollinator incongruence. Moreover, small fig size could facilitate host shifts. Eventually, this study demonstrates that non-coding chloroplast markers are valuable to resolve deep nodes in Ficus phylogeny.