The complex history of the genus Ilex L. (Aquifoliaceae): evidence from the comparison of plastid and nuclear DNA sequences and from fossil data
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A plastid phylogeny of the genus Ilex based on three different loci (the atpB-rbcL spacer, trnL-trnF and rbcL) is compared with its nuclear phylogeny based on two different loci (the ribosomal ITS and the 5S RNA spacer). These two sets of molecular data are then compared to geographical and temporal data from the fossil record. The plastid phylogeny is strongly correlated with the geographic distribution of extant species. However, the nuclear phylogeny is strongly incongruent with the plastid phylogeny, suggesting frequent interlineage hybridizations. Moreover, the comparison of the ribosomal ITS tree and the 5S RNA spacer tree indicates also possible lineage sorting. Particularly interesting is the finding of two different Ilex lineages in the plastid American clade showing different biogeographic patterns in South America. One of them has a simple North American/South American biogeographical relationship. The other has complex biogeographical relationships, some species showing direct Asian/South American biogeographical relationships. During its history, the genus Ilex probably experienced frequent lineage sorting and interlineage hybridization with subsequent nuclear or cytoplasmic introgression, making the study of its history very complex.
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