Patterns of Genetic Variation in Rosette-Brachyglottis are Inconsistent with Current Species Delimitation
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Brachyglottis (Asteraceae) is a genus of approximately 30 species in the Brachyglottidinae, a recently recognised sub-tribe of tribe Senecioneae. Within Brachyglottis is a clade of five species of rosette-forming herbs: B. bellidioides, B. haastii, B. lagopus, B. southlandica and B. traversii. A sixth species, B. saxifragoides, has recently been synonymised with B. lagopus. The rosette-Brachyglottis have historically been recognised as a taxonomically problematic group because species overlap in both morphology and geographical distribution. A recent molecular study of rosette-Brachyglottis using AFLP data indicated that genetic distances among populations of rosette-Brachyglottis in the South Island appear to be correlated with geographical distance between populations rather than taxonomic identification. This is problematic as the currently described rosette-Brachyglottis species have overlapping ranges which implicitly hypothesises reproductive barriers other than geographic distance. We conducted an investigation into the species delimitation of rosette-Brachyglottis with the aim of answering two related questions: Does the current delimitation of rosette-Brachyglottis accurately reflect patterns of genetic similarity? Do the patterns of genetic structure in rosette-Brachyglottis support the presence of multiple biological species? A total of 46 populations of rosette-Brachyglottis were represented in this study. Herbarium specimens collected from these populations were identified following the taxonomic treatment of Allan (1961). Twenty one discrete and numerical morphological characters were measured from herbarium specimens including those collected for this study and previously collected herbarium specimens. Morphological dissimilarity of 354 herbarium specimens was investigated by performing a PCoA on Gower’s pairwise morphological distances among individuals. The pattern of genetic similarity was explored using DNA fragment length variation in nine markers for 273 individuals and this resulted in a total 177 unique alleles. Bayesian clustering analysis was performed on this data set using STRUCTURE, in addition, pairwise genetic distances were calculated among individuals and populations using Jaccard and Nei’s dissimilarity coefficient’s respectively. Jaccard genetic distances among individuals were analysed using PCoA and Nei’s genetic distances among populations were analysed using a Neighbour-Net analysis. The relationship between pairwise genetic and geographic distances among populations was analysed using a combination of linear regression and a Mantel Test. The pattern of morphological similarities among specimens was generally congruent with the currently delimited species in rosette-Brachyglottis. However, many morphologically intermediate specimens confound the recognition of distinct morphological entities. Comparison of patterns of genetic similarity and the current morphologically-based species delimitation showed that the delimitation does not accurately reflect the genetic structure of rosette-Brachyglottis. Furthermore, patterns of genetic dissimilarity did not indicate discrete genetic groups at the individual or population levels. The finding of incongruence between patterns of genetic and morphological similarity and absence of morphologically or genetically discrete groups suggests that rosette-Brachyglottis are best considered a single, yet morphologically diverse, biological species. In addition genetic structure within this species appears to be primarily driven by geographical isolation.