Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 303, Issue 6, pp 727–744 | Cite as

Multilocus phylogenetic reconstruction informing polyploid relationships of Aconitum subgenus Lycoctonum (Ranunculaceae) in China

  • Hanghui KongEmail author
  • Yu Zhang
  • Yu Hong
  • Michael S. Barker
Original Article


Polyploidization has long been recognized as one of the most important driving forces of plant evolution. Aconitum subgenus Lycoctonum (Ranunculaceae) has a wide distribution range and well-known background of polyploidy, thereby providing a potentially valuable model to explore polyploid origin and evolutionary history. However, the phylogeny of subg. Lycoctonum has not yet been completely resolved. In the current study, 29 species including diploid, tetraploid and hexaploid species were sampled in subg. Lycoctonum. Using four cpDNA regions (ndhF-trnL, psbA-trnH, psbD-trnT and trnT-L) and two nrDNA regions (internal transcribed spacer, ITS, and external transcribed spacer, ETS), phylogenetic relationship was first reconstructed for the polyploid species within subg. Lycoctonum. In combination with nuclear diversification rate estimation, cpDNA haplotype network, ancestral area reconstruction as well as morphological and karyotypic evidence, potential origin and divergence time were further assessed among the polyploid species. Hybridization was inferred for A. angustius and A. finetianum was suggested to be the potential maternal progenitor, due to their close phylogenetic relationship, highly similar morphologies and overlapping distribution range. Local origin was inferred for tetraploids in the Hengduan Mountains (HDM) with eight groups of chromosomes of four homeologous, which diverged approximately 3.00 Ma in the same period of the orogeny of the HDM. The hexaploid A. apetalum was inferred to suffer from geographical isolation due to the formation of the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau (QTP) and the HDM. Hybridization and heterogeneous habitats in the HDM were suggested to play an important role in the polyploidization in subg. Lycoctonum.


Aconitum subgenus Lycoctonum Heterogeneous habitats Hybridization Phylogenetic reconstruction Polyploids 



We would like to thank Prof. Youngdong Kim for providing the samples of Aconitum longecassidatum, A. pseudolaeve and A. quelpaertense from Korea, and Dr. Tetsuo Ohi-Toma for providing the sample of A. pterocaule from Japan. Special thanks to Zheng Li and Anthony Baniaga for helpful suggestions and discussion on the data analyses. Dr. A.J. Harris is thanked for the valuable suggestions on the manuscript.

Sources of funding

This work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (Project No. 31470319), the Main Direction Program of Knowledge Innovation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KSCX2-EW-J-28), and the Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province, China (Project No. 10151065005000019).


No specific permits were required for the species of Aconitum subgenus Lycoctonum used in the current study, and all samples were collected by researchers following current Chinese regulations.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 105 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (PDF 1611 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hanghui Kong
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yu Zhang
    • 1
  • Yu Hong
    • 1
  • Michael S. Barker
    • 2
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Plant Resources Conservation and Sustainable Utilization, South China Botanical GardenChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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