Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 304, Issue 8, pp 1023–1040 | Cite as

Phylogenetic and morphological analysis of a new cliff-dwelling species reveals a remnant ancestral diversity and evolutionary parallelism in Sonchus (Asteraceae)

  • José A. Mejías
  • Mathieu Chambouleyron
  • Seon-Hee Kim
  • M. Dolores Infante
  • Seung-Chul Kim
  • Jean-François Léger
Original Article


We describe a new cliff-dwelling species within Sonchus (Asteraceae): Sonchus boulosii and analyze its systematic position and evolutionary significance; in addition, we provide a key to the species of Sonchus in Morocco. Both morphological and ecological characteristics suggest a close relationship of S. boulosii with taxa of section Pustulati. However, ITS nrDNA and cpDNA matK markers indicate its uncertain position within the genus, but clear genetic differentiation from the remaining major clades. ITS phylogenetic trees show that likely evolutionary shifts to rocky habitat took place at least five times within genus Sonchus and that sect. Pustulati and S. boulosii clades have a clearly independent evolutionary origin. We postulate that the strong resemblance of S. boulosii to other rocky species reflects a phenomenon of homoplasy, probably driven by parallel evolutionary adaptations to the severe ecological constraints of its cliff face habitat. Therefore, a new section is also described, which includes S. boulosii as its sole representative: section Pulvinati. According to phylogenetic trees, the new clade may share its common ancestor with the clade comprising sections Maritimi and Arvenses, from which it is widely divergent in morphology and ecology, with the exception of Sonchus novae-zelandiae. However, the latter is a derived taxon, with high level of polyploidy unlike S. boulosii that shows 2n = 18, basal chromosome number of the genus. Since sections Pulvinati and Pustulati seem to be quite old in Sonchus, we also hypothesize that some similarities, such as fruit morphology, may reflect the persistence of some primitive characteristics.


Homoplasy Karyogram matK cpDNA nrDNA ITS Parallel evolution Western Mediterranean 



We are grateful to H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahayan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Chairman of the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC), and H.E. Mohamed Al Bowardi, Deputy Chairman of the IFHC, for having provided the main financial support that enabled the collection of data used in this document. We appreciate the help of Herbarium SEV for preserving dry material and the General Greenhouse Service of the University of Seville for the help in plant cultivation. We also thank Dr. Thomas Martin (Reneco International Wildlife Consultants LLC) for reviewing this text, Grégoire Liénart (ECWP) for preparing the map, and the botanical illustrator Rodrigo Tavera for his detailed drawing included as the icon.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interests.

Supplementary material

606_2018_1523_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (153 kb)
Online Resource 1. Collections of Sonchus boulosii for this study. (PDF 153 kb)
606_2018_1523_MOESM2_ESM.txt (85 kb)
Online Resource 2. Sequence Alignment of ITS region for the Sonchinae. (TXT 85 kb)
606_2018_1523_MOESM3_ESM.txt (121 kb)
Online Resource 3. Sequence Alignment of matk region for the Sonchinae. (TXT 120 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant Biology and EcologyUniversidad de SevillaSevilleSpain
  2. 2.Emirates Center for Wildlife Propagation, Province de BoulemaneMissourMorocco
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesSungkyunkwan UniversitySuwonKorea
  4. 4.Department of Integrated SciencesUniversidad de Huelva (Campus El Carmen)HuelvaSpain
  5. 5.Reneco International Wildlife Consultants LLCAbu DhabiUnited Arab Emirates

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