Phylotranscriptomics reveals the reticulate evolutionary history of a widespread diatom species complex

J Phycol. 2022 Oct;58(5):643-656. doi: 10.1111/jpy.13281. Epub 2022 Aug 8.


In contrast to surveys based on a few genes that often provide limited taxonomic resolution, transcriptomes provide a wealth of genomic loci that can resolve relationships among taxonomically challenging lineages. Diatoms are a diverse group of aquatic microalgae that includes important bioindicator species and many such lineages. One example is Nitzschia palea, a widespread species complex with several morphologically defined taxonomic varieties, some of which are critical pollution indicators. Morphological differences among the varieties are subtle and phylogenetic studies based on a few genes fail to resolve their evolutionary relationships. We conducted morphometric and transcriptome analyses of 10 Nitzschia palea strains to resolve the relationships among strains and taxonomic varieties. Nitzschia palea was resolved into three clades, one of which corresponds to a group of strains with narrow linear-lanceolate valves. The other morphological group recovered in the shape outline analysis was not monophyletic and consisted of two clades. Gene-tree concordance analyses and phylogenetic network estimations revealed patterns of incomplete lineage sorting and gene flow between intraspecific lineages. We detected reticulated evolutionary patterns among lineages with different morphologies, resulting in a putative recent hybrid. Our study shows that phylogenomic analyses of unlinked nuclear loci, complemented with morphometrics, can resolve complex evolutionary histories of recently diverged species complexes.

Keywords: Nitzschia palea; cryptic species; diatom; hybridization; incomplete lineage sorting; molecular; morphology; phylogeny; reticulate evolution; transcriptomes..

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • Diatoms* / genetics
  • Gene Flow
  • Genome
  • Phylogeny

Associated data

  • RefSeq/GJIR00000000
  • RefSeq/GJOZ00000000
  • RefSeq/GJPA00000000
  • RefSeq/GJPB00000000
  • RefSeq/GJPC00000000
  • RefSeq/GJPD00000000
  • RefSeq/GJPI00000000
  • RefSeq/GJPH00000000
  • RefSeq/GJPE00000000
  • RefSeq/GJPF00000000
  • RefSeq/GJPG0000000
  • RefSeq/GJPZ00000000