Multiple auto- and allopolyploidisations marked the Pleistocene history of the widespread Eurasian steppe plant Astragalus onobrychis (Fabaceae)
The STEPPE Consortium
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SubjectAutopolyploidy; Allopolyploidy; Genotype-free inference; Eurasian steppes; Plastid DNA; RADseq; Reticulate evolution
The Eurasian steppes occupy a significant portion of the worldwide land surface and their biota have been affected by specific past range dynamics driven by ice ages-related climatic fluctuations. The dynamic alterations in conditions during the Pleistocene often triggered reticulate evolution and whole genome duplication events. Employing genomic, genetic and cytogenetic tools as well as morphometry we investigate the intricate evolution of Astragalus onobrychis, a widespread Eurasian steppe plant with diploid, tetraploid and octoploid cytotypes. To analyse the heteroploid RADseq dataset we employ both genotype-based and genotype-free methods that result in highly consistent results, and complement our inference with information from the plastid ycf1 region. We uncover a complex and reticulate evolutionary history, including at least one auto-tetraploidization event and two allo-octoploidization events; one of them involved also genetic contributions from other species, most likely A. goktschaicus. The present genetic structure points to the existence of four main clades within A. onobrychis, which only partly correspond to different ploidies. Time-calibrated diffusion models suggest that diversification within A. onobrychis was associated with ice age-related climatic fluctuations during the last million years. We finally argue for the usefulness of uniparentally inherited plastid markers, even in the genomic era, especially when investigating heteroploid systems.