, Volume 255, Issue 1, pp 263–272 | Cite as

Are holocentrics doomed to change? Limited chromosome number variation in Rhynchospora Vahl (Cyperaceae)

  • Tiago Ribeiro
  • Christopher E. Buddenhagen
  • W. Wayt Thomas
  • Gustavo Souza
  • Andrea Pedrosa-HarandEmail author
Original Article


Karyotype evolution in species with non-localised centromeres (holocentric chromosomes) is usually very dynamic and associated with recurrent fission and fusion (also termed agmatoploidy/symploidy) events. In Rhynchospora (Cyperaceae), one of the most species-rich sedge genera, all analysed species have holocentric chromosomes and their numbers range from 2n = 4 to 2n = 84. Agmatoploidy/symploidy and polyploidy were suggested as the main processes in the reshuffling of Rhynchospora karyotypes, although testing different scenarios of chromosome number evolution in a phylogenetic framework has not been attempted until now. Here, we used maximum likelihood and model-based analyses, in combination with genome size estimation and ribosomal DNA distribution, to understand chromosome evolution in Rhynchospora. Overall, chromosome number variation showed a significant phylogenetic signal and the majority of the lineages maintained a karyotype of 2n = 10 (~48% of the species), the most likely candidate for the ancestral number of the genus. Higher and lower chromosome numbers were restricted to specific clades, whilst polyploidy and/or fusion/fission events were present in specific branches. Variation in genome size and ribosomal DNA site number showed no correlation with ploidy level or chromosome number. Although different mechanisms of karyotype evolution (polyploidy, fusion and fission) seem to be acting in distinct lineages, the degree of chromosome variation and the main mechanisms involved are comparable to those found in some monocentric genera and lower than expected for a holocentric genus.


Agmatoploidy/symploidy Dysploidy Genome size Holokinetic Karyotype evolution Polyploidy rDNA 



We thank the Brazilian agencies Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) for the scholarship to T. Ribeiro, Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) for the fellowship to A. Pedrosa-Harand and Fundação de Amparo à Ciência e Tecnologia do Estado de Pernambuco (FACEPE) for the financial support (APQ-2008-2.02/12). We are also grateful to Aretuza Sousa (University of Munich, Germany) for the help with the plotting of ChromEvol output in R and André Vanzela (State University of Londrina, Paraná, Brazil) and Ana Carolina Galindo da Costa (Federal University of Pernambuco, Brazil) for collecting some species in the field.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

709_2017_1154_Fig3_ESM.gif (190 kb)
Online Resource 1

Mitotic metaphases of R. globosa (2n = 50), R. elatior (2n = 12) and R. radicans (2n = 10) stained with DAPI. Bar = 5 μm. (GIF 190 kb)

709_2017_1154_MOESM1_ESM.tif (1.7 mb)
High Resolution Image (TIFF 1725 kb)
709_2017_1154_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (1.8 mb)
Online Resource 2 Ancestral character estimation of chromosome number (log-transformed maximum chromosome number count) along the branches and nodes of the phylogeny of the Rhynchospora (Cyperaceae). The colour of edges in the tree represents observed and reconstructed values for chromosome number on the tree. Red colours correspond with relatively low chromosome number, whereas dark blue colours represent larger observed and reconstructed chromosome sets. (PDF 1824 kb)
709_2017_1154_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (463 kb)
Online Resource 3 Ancestral state reconstruction of chromosome number (estimated in Mesquite) for the genus Rhynchospora. Haploid chromosome numbers are coloured according to legend. (PDF 463 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Botânica, Centro de Biociências, Laboratório de Citogenética e Evolução VegetalUniversidade Federal de PernambucoRecifeBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Biological ScienceFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  3. 3.New York Botanical GardenBronxUSA

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