J Syst Evol

• Research Articles •    

Genomic insights into speciation history and local adaptation of an alpine aspen in the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau and adjacent highlands

Jia‐Liang Li , Lin‐Ling Zhong , Jing Wang, Tao Ma, Kang‐Shan Mao, and Lei Zhang*   

  1. Key Laboratory of Bio‐Resource and Eco‐Environment of the Ministry of Education, College of Life Sciences, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610065, China
  • Received:2020-02-14 Accepted:2020-07-14 Online:2020-07-28

Abstract:

Natural selection serves as an important agent to drive and maintain interspecific divergence. Populus rotundifolia Griff. is an alpine aspen species that mainly occurs in the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau (QTP) and adjacent highlands, whereas its sister species, P. davidiana Dode, is distributed across southwest and central to northeast China in much lower altitude regions. In this study, we collected genome resequencing data of 53 P. rotundifolia and 42 P. davidiana individuals across their natural distribution regions. Our population genomic data suggest that the two species are well delimitated in the allopatric regions, but with hybrid zones in their adjacent region in the eastern QTP. Coalescent simulations suggest that P. rotundifolia diverged from P. davidiana in the middle Pleistocene with following continuous gene flow since divergence. In addition, we found numerous highly diverged genes with outlier signatures that are likely associated with high‐altitude adaptation of these alpine aspens. Our finding indicate that Quaternary climatic changes and natural selection have greatly contributed to the origin and distinction maintenance of P. rotundifolia in the QTP.

Key words: aspen, gene flow, high‐altitude adaptation, Qinghai–Tibet Plateau, speciation