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, 8 (12), 2023-35

Chloroplast DNA Variation and Reticulate Evolution in Sexual and Apomictic Sections of Dandelions


Chloroplast DNA Variation and Reticulate Evolution in Sexual and Apomictic Sections of Dandelions

H Wittzell. Mol Ecol.


Sequencing of the trnL-trnF intergenic spacer in chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) from 237 sexual and apomictic species of dandelions (genus Taraxacum) from Europe, Asia and arctic North America revealed 46 haplotypes, which differed mainly by a variable number of polymorphic tRNA pseudogenes next to the trnF gene. The haplotypes could be divided into 20 cpDNA lineages, but independent duplications and deletions of the pseudogene copies made it difficult to further reconstruct the phylogeny. Intraspecific cpDNA variation was found in the primitive sexual T. serotinum. However, in contrast to a recent study, no cpDNA variation was detected within 12 apomictic species representing a variety of haplotypes. The cpDNA haplotype may therefore help to define these critical apomicts. On the other hand, the genetic variation may easily be overestimated, if the clones are not correctly identified, because some morphologically similar microspecies carried very different haplotypes. In all, 36 sections of the genus were sampled. Four primitive, mainly sexual, sections only displayed a group of ancient haplotypes, whereas morphologically more advanced sections often exhibited many different haplotypes from up to seven cpDNA lineages. In the latter cases, the lineages were rarely unique to a certain section. For example, the two most widespread haplotypes, belonging to different lineages, were found together in nine sections. This suggests that significant gene flow has occurred among the advanced sections, although sexual reproduction is not currently known in several of them. The result is consistent with the reticulate distribution of morphological characters among the sections.

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