J Syst Evol

• Research Article •    

A phylogenetic framework to study desirable traits in the wild relatives of Theobroma cacao L. (Malvaceae)

Ana M. Bossa-Castro1, James Edward Richardson2,3,4,5, Matheus Colli-Silva6,7, José Rubens Pirani6, Barbara Whitlock8, Laura Tatiana Morales Mancera1, Natalia Contreras5,9, Martha Lucía Cepeda-Hernández10, Federica Di Palma11,12 and Martha Vives1   

  1. 1 Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia;
    2 School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland;
    3 Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland;
    4 Departamento de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad del Rosario, Bogotá, Colombia;
    5 Tropical Diversity Section, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom;
    6 Departamento de Botânica, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil;
    7 Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, United Kingdom;
    8 Department of Biology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, USA;
    9 Department of Molecular Plant Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom;
    10 Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia;
    11 School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom;
    12 Genome British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
    Ana M. Bossa-Castro ana.bossa@alumni.colostate.edu
    James Edward Richardson jrichardson@ucc.ie
    Matheus Colli-Silva matheus.colli.silva@alumni.usp.br
    José Rubens Pirani pirani@usp.br
    Barbara Whitlock b.whitlock@miami.edu
    Laura Tatiana Morales Mancera lt.morales10@uniandes.edu.co
    Natalia Contreras Ortiz ncontrerasortiz@rbge.org.uk
    Martha Lucía Cepeda-Hernández mcepedah1@ucentral.edu.co
    Federica Di Palma fdipalma@genomebc.ca
    Martha Vives mvives@uniandes.edu.co
    Corresponding author:Ana M. Bossa-Castro;Address:Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia. Phone:57-1-3394949;Email:ana.bossa@alumni.colostate.edu
  • Received:2023-09-26 Accepted:2023-11-27

Abstract: Crop wild relatives (CWRs) of cultivated species may provide a source of genetic variation that can contribute to improving product quantity and quality. To adequately use these potential resources, it is useful to understand how CWRs are related to the cultivated species and to each other to determine how key crop traits have evolved and discover potentially usable genetic information. The chocolate industry is expanding and yet is under threat from a variety of causes including pathogens and climate change. Theobroma cacao L. (Malvaceae), the source of chocolate, is a representative of the tribe Theobromeae that consists of four genera and c. 40 species that began to diversify over 25 million years ago. The great diversity within the tribe suggests that its representatives could exhibit advantageous agronomic traits. In this study, we present the most taxonomically comprehensive phylogeny of Theobromeae to date. DNA sequence data from WRKY genes were assembled into a matrix that included 56 morphological characters and analyzed using a Bayesian approach. The inclusion of a morphological dataset increased resolution and support for some branches of the phylogenetic tree. The evolutionary trajectory of selected morphological characters was reconstructed onto the phylogeny. This phylogeny provides a framework for the study of morphological and physiological trait evolution which can facilitate the search for agronomically relevant traits.

Key words: cacao, crop wild relatives, Herrania, Malvaceae, morphological and molecular characters, phylogeny, trait evolution, Theobroma.