A reexamination of the North American Crepis agamic complex and comparison with the findings of Babcock and Stebbins' classic biosystematic monograph

Am J Bot. 2016 Jul;103(7):1289-99. doi: 10.3732/ajb.1600057. Epub 2016 Jun 16.


Premise of the study: Babcock and Stebbins coined the term agamic complex in their 1938 monograph of the North American Crepis agamic complex. Despite the historical role that this complex holds in the evolutionary literature, it has not been reexamined in over 75 years. We present a thorough reevaluation of the complex to test hypotheses proposed by Babcock and Stebbins about its origins and spread, the relationships of diploids, and the nature and origins of polyploids.

Methods: We used flow cytometry to infer ploidy of roughly 600 samples spanning the morphological and taxonomic diversity of the complex and a phylogenetic analysis of plastid DNA variation to infer maternal relationships among diploids and to infer maternal origins of polyploids.

Key results: We identified populations of all seven recognized diploids plus one new lineage. Phylogenetic analysis of plastid DNA variation in diploids revealed a well-resolved, but moderately supported phylogeny, with evidence for monophyly of the North America Crepis agamic complex and no evidence of widespread homoploid hybridization. Polyploids showed evidence of multiple origins and a pattern of frequent local co-occurrence consistent with repeated colonization of suitable sites.

Conclusions: Our findings agree broadly with the distribution and variation of ploidy within and among species described by Babcock and Stebbins. One key difference is finding support for monophyly of North American species, and refuting their hypothesis of polyphyly. Our results provide an explicit phylogenetic framework for further study of this classic agamic complex.

Keywords: Asteraceae; apomixis; flow cytometry; hybridization; multiple origins; plastid phylogeny.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • Crepis / genetics*
  • Diploidy
  • Genetics, Population
  • Genome, Plant / genetics*
  • Haplotypes
  • Hybridization, Genetic
  • North America
  • Phylogeny
  • Plastids / genetics
  • Ploidies*
  • Polyploidy