Evaluation of traditionally circumscribed species in the lichen-forming genus Usnea, section Usnea (Parmeliaceae, Ascomycota) using a six-locus dataset
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- Mark, K., Saag, L., Leavitt, S.D. et al. Org Divers Evol (2016) 16: 497. doi:10.1007/s13127-016-0273-7
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Recent taxonomic and DNA sequence-based studies in several groups of lichen-forming fungi have revealed incongruence between the morphological and molecule-based circumscriptions of species. While the cosmopolitan genus Usnea is well-known and easily recognized by the yellowish beard-like thallus with central cord, delimitation of many Usnea species is difficult due to the high variation and complexity of diagnostic characters. In this study, we assessed the monophyly of 18 species from section Usnea occurring in North America and Europe, including sorediate and sexually reproducing taxa with both pendent and shrubby thalli. Six nuclear markers (ribosomal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) and intergenic spacer (IGS), and protein-coding beta-tubulin, MCM7, RPB1 and RPB2) were sequenced for 144 samples. All analyzed loci show weak genetic structure and short branch lengths in single-locus topologies, suggesting recent diversification history of the sampled taxa. Concatenated, multi-locus analyses conducted in Bayesian and maximum likelihood frameworks, as well as coalescent-based species delimitation and species tree methods, recover several distinct clades, some represent traditional morphology-based species (Usnea cavernosa, U. praetervisa, U. silesiaca, U. wasmuthii), while others form clusters of two or more species (Usnea florida–U. subfloridana, U. fulvoreagens–U. glabrescens, U. barbata–U. chaetophora–U. dasopoga–U. diplotypus, U. barbata–U. intermedia–U. lapponica–U. substerilis). We propose synonymization of U. substerilis under U. lapponica. The status of several other species within intermixed clusters requires further evaluation with more extensive sampling and the inclusion of more variable markers before taxonomic consequences can be considered. A new species, Usnea parafloridana is described from Wisconsin, USA.