, Volume 254, Issue 1, pp 207-217

Molecular phylogeny of Alnus (Betulaceae), inferred from nuclear ribosomal DNA ITS sequences

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Abstract

The nuclear ITS region of 19 species of Alnus was amplified and sequenced. The inferred molecular phylogeny shows that all species of the genus Alnus form a monophyletic group close to Betula and that the fundamental dichotomy within the genus lies between the subgenera Alnaster and Gymnothyrsus, sensu Murai (1964). The subgenus Alnaster appears to be basal in the genus, based on archaism of morphological features, and branching close to the root of the trees due to low ITS divergence from genus Betula. The monophyly of the section Clethropsis is not supported by the present data: Alnus nepalensis is positioned in the subgenus Gymnothyrsus, away from A. nitida and A. maritima. Surprisingly, A. formosana sect. Japonicae is closely tied to A. maritima sect. Clethropsis, with which it shares few morphological traits, and is separate from A. japonica sect. Japonicae with which it shares many traits. An increase in substitution rate is noted in the group comprising A. formosana, A. maritima and A. nitida relative to the rest of the genus, which appears to have had, on the average, a very slow mutation rate. Alnus glutinosa, the designated type for the genus, appears to be representative of the genus both for morphological characters and evolutionary rate. North-East Asia is comforted in its position of origin of the genus since not only does it have the highest number of species and representatives in all deep branching lineages, there are also fewer transcontinental migrations when a North-East Asian ancestor is postulated than when a North American ancestor is postulated.