J Syst Evol

• Research Articles •    

Population genetic structure of the giant panda staple food bamboo (Fargesia spathacea complex) and its taxonomic implications

Lei Huang+, Xiao-Cheng Xing+, Wan-Wan Li+, Yun Zhou, Yu-Qu Zhang, Cheng Xue, Yi Ren*, and Ju-Qing Kang*   

  1. College of Life Sciences, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi'an, Shaanxi 710119, China
  • Received:2019-11-30 Accepted:2020-04-23 Online:2020-04-27


The taxonomy of woody bamboo presents many difficulties due to its long blooming interval and complex morphological variation. Whether the current taxonomy reflects genuine species divergence within woody bamboo is an intriguing question. The Fargesia spathacea Franch. complex comprises 15 closely related species with a sympatric distribution in China. Their classification has long been controversial because only a handful of vegetative traits are available, providing a good opportunity to explore the evolutionary relationships and genetic differentiation in woody bamboo. Here, we present a study involving 750 individuals from 39 representative populations in the F. spathacea complex using 14 simple sequence repeat markers. We found varying degrees of genetic diversity across populations of the F. spathacea complex (He  = 0.07–0.81) and largely negative F‐values at the population level, implying an excess of heterozygotes in the populations. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that all populations were divided into two major groups (clusters A and B), with the majority of the 15 species representing distinct genetic lineages. Based on population genetic analysis along with morphological evidence, we confirmed the identity of three species (F. decurvata J. L. Lu, F. spathacea , and F. murielae Gamble) and suggested the invalidation of four other species (F. scabrida T. P. Yi, F. robusta T. P. Yi, F. denudata T. P. Yi F. murielae (Gamble) T. P. Yi, and F. nitida (Mitford) Keng f. ex T. P. Yi). The delimitation of the remaining eight species has yet to be explored. The analysis of ecological factors and spatial autocorrelation suggested that altitudinal differences might account for the distinct genetic divergence between the two major groups.

Key words: altitudinal difference, Fargesia spathacea complex, genetic divergence, SSR, vegetative trait