Molecular evidence for the origin and evolutionary history of the rare American desert monotypic family Setchellanthaceae
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- Hernández-Hernández, T., Colorado, W.B. & Sosa, V. Org Divers Evol (2013) 13: 485. doi:10.1007/s13127-013-0136-4
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Setchellanthus caeruleus, which has disjunct populations in the north of the Chihuahuan Desert and in the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán valley, was selected to understand the evolutionary history of plants in this desert and its southerly relicts. This species constitutes the monotypic family Setchellanthaceae, which forms part of a group of plants that produce mustard-oil glucosides or glucosinolates. Molecular phylogenetic analyses based on DNA plastid sequences of plants of S. caeruleus from both areas, including representative taxa of the order Brassicales, were carried out to estimate the time of origin of the family (based on matK + rcbL) and divergence of populations (based on psbI-K, trnh-psbA, trnL-trnF). In addition, comparative ecological niche modelling was performed to detect if climate variables vary significantly in northern and southern populations. Analyses revealed that Setchellanthaceae is an ancient lineage that originated between 78 and 112 Mya during the mid-late Cretaceous—much earlier than the formation of the Chihuahuan Desert. The molecular data matrix displayed a few indel events as the only differences of plastid DNA sequences between northern and southern populations. It is suggested that due to climate changes in this desert in the Pliocene, populations of Setchellanthus remained in the Sierra de Jimulco and in Cuicatlán, in climatically stable locations. Ecological niche models of northern populations predict niches of southern populations and identity niche tests indicate that there are no differences in their ecological niches.