J Syst Evol ›› 2020, Vol. 58 ›› Issue (5): 604-645.DOI: 10.1111/jse.12676

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Phylogenomics, biogeography, and evolution of the blue‐ or white‐fruited dogwoods (Cornus)—Insights into morphological and ecological niche divergence following intercontinental geographic isolation

Kira Lindelof1, Julieta A. Lindo1, Wenbin Zhou1, Xiang Ji2, Qiu-Yun (Jenny) Xiang1*   

  1. 1Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7612, USA
    2Department of Biomathematics, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1766, USA
  • Received:2020-05-27 Accepted:2020-08-18 Online:2020-08-27 Published:2020-09-01


The eastern Asian (EA)–eastern North American (ENA) floristic disjunction represents a major pattern of phytogeography of the Northern Hemisphere. Despite 20 years of studies dedicated to identification of taxa that display this disjunct pattern, its origin and evolution remain an open question, especially regarding post‐isolation evolution. The blue‐ or white‐fruited dogwoods (BW) are the most species‐rich among the four major clades of Cornus L., consisting of ~35 species divided into three subgenera (subg. Yinquania, subg. Mesomora, and subg. Kraniopsis). The BW group provides an excellent example of the EA–ENA floristic disjunction for biogeographic study due to its diversity distribution centered in eastern Asia and eastern North America, yet its species relationships and delineation have remained poorly understood. In this study, we combined genome‐wide markers from RAD‐seq, morphology, fossils, and climate data to understand species relationships, biogeographic history, and ecological niche and morphological evolution. Our phylogenomic analyses with RAxML and MrBayes recovered a strongly supported and well‐resolved phylogeny of the BW group with three intercontinental disjunct clades in EA and ENA or Eurasia and North America, of which two are newly identified within subg. Kraniopsis. These analyses also recovered a potential new species but failed to resolve relationships within the C. hemsleyiC. schindleri complex. In an effort to develop an approach to reduce computation time, analysis of different nodal age settings in treePL suggests setting a node's minimum age constraint to the lower bound of a fossil's age range to obtain similar ages to that of BEAST. Divergence time analyses with BEAST and treePL dated the BW stem back to the very Late Cretaceous and the divergence of the three subgenera in the Paleogene. By integrating fossil ages and morphology, a total evidence‐based dating approach was used in conjunction with time‐slice probabilities of dispersal under a DEC model to resolve ancestral ranges of each disjunct in the Miocene: Eurasia and ENA (disjunct 1), EA and western North America (disjunct 2), and EA (disjunct 3). The dated biogeographic history supports dispersal via the North Atlantic Land Bridge in the late Paleogene in disjunct 1 and dispersal via the Bering Land Bridge in the Miocene for disjuncts 2 and 3. Character mapping with a stochastic model in phytools and comparison of ecological niche, morphospace, and rate of evolution indicated differential divergence patterns in morphology, ecological niche, and molecules between disjunct sisters. Although morphological stasis was observed in most of the characters, evolutionary changes in growth habit and some features of leaf, flower, and fruit morphology occurred in one or both sister clades. A significant differentiation of ecological habitats in temperature, precipitation, and elevation between disjunct sisters was observed, suggesting a role of niche divergence in morphological evolution post‐isolation. The patterns of evolutionary rate between morphology and molecules varied among disjunct clades and were not always congruent between morphology and molecules, suggesting cases of non‐neutral morphological evolution driven by ecological selection. Our phylogenetic evidence and comparisons of evolutionary rate among disjunct lineages lend new insights into the formation of the diversity anomaly between EA and ENA, with particular support of an early diversification in EA. These findings, in conjunction with previous studies, again suggest that the EA–ENA disjunct floras are an assembly of lineages descended from the Mesophytic Forests that evolved from the early Paleogene “boreotropical flora” through varied evolutionary pathways across lineages.

Key words: Biogeography, Cornus, Eastern Asian-eastern North American disjunction, Ecological niche and Morphospace,  Phylogenomics, RAD-seq