Phylogeography of Ixiolirion songaricum, a spring ephemeral species endemic to Northwest China

  • Yan Li
  • Xue-Ni Zhang
  • Guang-Hui LvEmail author
Original Article


Past geological and climatic changes have promoted shifts in both intraspecific differentiation and distribution ranges for many desert plants, though little is known about the effects of these changes specifically on spring ephemerals in Northwest China. In the present study, we aimed to survey the population structure and phylogeographic history of an endemic spring ephemeral species, Ixiolirion songaricum P. Yan in Northwest China. We sequenced the nITS and two ptDNA fragments (psbB–psbH and ycf6–psbM) for 265 individuals from 15 populations across the entire range. Eight nITS ribotypes and eleven plastid chlorotypes were identified, with three of them dominant. A significant phylogeographic structure was detected for the species in which two larger, distinct phylogeographic lineages were identified. A high proportion of the total genetic variation existed between populations and between the two lineages. The species had undergone a sudden range expansion in the late Quaternary, which might have been driven by an interglacial warm, humid climate following the largest Pleistocene glaciation period in Northwest China. The ecological niche modeling suggested the species experienced continuous shrinkage of potential range since the last interglacial, which is distinct from other desert plants. Overall, our results indicated that climate change associated with the Quaternary greatly promoted differentiation of I. songaricum. The shift in population distribution was likely driven by increasing aridity in Xinjiang during the Quaternary.


Central Asia Climate change Demographic dynamic Quaternary 



We thank Dr. Hongxiang Zhang and Zhibin Wen at Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences for their review and comments on the manuscript. We would also like to thank Elizabeth Tokarz at the Yale University for her assistance with English language and grammatical editing of the manuscript. This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 31500309, 31560131) and the Scientific Research Fund for Doctors of Xinjiang University (BS150259).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict interest.

Ethical approval

We are clear about the rules of COPE and comply with all the guidelines. This research does not involve any human participants or animals. All authors consent the submission of this manuscript to PSE.

Supplementary material

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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Oasis EcologyXinjiang UniversityUrumqiChina
  2. 2.Institute of Arid Ecology and EnvironmentXinjiang UniversityUrumqiChina

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