J Syst Evol

• Research Articles •    

Deciphering the global phylogeography of a coastal shrub (Scaevola taccada) reveals the influence of multiple forces on contemporary population structure

Achyut Kumar Banerjee1† , Hai‐Dan Wu1† , Wu‐Xia Guo1,2, Wei‐Lun Ng3 , Wei‐Xi Li1 , Yan Ma1 , Hui Feng1 , and Ye‐Lin Huang1 *   

  1. 1 State Key Laboratory of Biocontrol and Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Plant Resources, School of Life Sciences, Sun Yat‐sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
    2 Department of Bioengineering, Zhuhai Campus of Zunyi Medical University, Zhuhai 519041, Guangdong, China
    3 China‐ASEAN College of Marine Sciences, Xiamen University Malaysia, Sepang 43900, Malaysia
  • Received:2020-07-02 Accepted:2021-03-19 Online:2021-04-03

Abstract: The phylogeography of coastal plant species is heavily influenced by past sealevel fluctuations, dispersal barriers, and life-history traits, such as long-distance dispersal ability of the propagules. Unlike the widely studied mangroves, phylogeographic patterns have remained mostly obscure for other coastal plant species. In this study, we sampled 42 populations of Scaevola taccada (Gaertn.) Roxb., a coastal shrub of the family Goodeniaceae, from 17 countries across its distribution range. We used five chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) and 14 nuclear microsatellite (simple sequence repeat [SSR]) markers to assess the influence of abiotic factors and population genetic processes on the phylogeographic pattern of the species. Geographical distribution of cpDNA haplotypes suggests that the species originated in Australia, followed by historical dispersal and expansion of its geographic range. Multiple abiotic factors, including the sealevel changes during the Pleistocene, the presence of landmasses like the Malay Peninsula, and contemporary oceanic circulation patterns, restricted gene flow between geographically distinct populations, thereby creating low haplotype diversity and a strong population structure. Population genetic processes acted on these isolated populations, leading to high nuclear genetic diversity and population differentiation, as revealed from analyzing the polymorphic SSR loci. Although genetic divergence was mostly concordant between cpDNA and SSR data, asymmetrical gene flow and ancestral polymorphism could explain the discordance in the detailed genetic structure. Overall, our findings indicate that abiotic factors and population genetic processes interactively influenced the evolutionary history and current phylogeographic pattern of S. taccada across its distribution range.

Key words: coastal plant, gene flow, genetic diversity, phylogeography, Scaevola