The conservation genomics of the endangered distylous gypsophile Oreocarya crassipes (Boraginaceae)

  • James I. CohenEmail author
Research Article


The Chihuahuan Desert includes many endemic angiosperm species, some having very restricted geographic ranges. One of these species is Oreocarya crassipes (I. M. Johnst.) Hasenstab & M. G. Simpson, an endangered distylous gypsophile from the Trans-Pecos region in southern Brewster County, Texas, USA. The species is known from 10 populations, and this small number of populations, human development in the area, a distylous breeding system, and edaphic requirements threaten the long-term viability of the species. Using both hundreds of single nucleotide polymorphisms identified via tunable genotyping-by-sequencing (tGBS) and 10 microsatellite loci, patterns of genetic diversity, demography, selection, and migration were examined for 192 individuals from four populations of O. crassipes. From the sampled individuals, two populations (clusters) were identified via multiple methodologies and with both types of data. With SNP data, population substructure was further resolved among one of these populations to identify two distinct groups of individuals. Multiple individuals recognized as having mixed ancestry, along with Fst values and AMOVA results, provide evidence of genetic exchange among populations, which is less common for gypsophiles than non-gypsophiles, and the rate of migration among populations has been increasing recently. The Fst values for O. crassipes are more similar to those of other rare species than to other gypsophiles. Additionally, while distyly specifically does not necessarily impact the population genetics of the species, allogamy, which is facilitated by distyly, seems to have played a role in the genetic structure of O. crassipes.


Boraginaceae Chihuahuan Desert Conservation genomics Distyly Genotyping-by-sequencing Gypsum 



D. Garcia, J.-M. Choi, M. Williams, and B. Warnock provided wonderful assistance with field work. J. Wells, B. Gardiner, and H. Mills and the O2 Ranch allowed access to property for sampling plants, and the project would not have been possible without their cooperation. C. Ritzi and students identified floral visitors. L. G. Ruane and four reviewers provided helpful comments on the manuscript. A. M. Powell and C. D. Kellogg supported and encouraged the successful completion of the project. Funding for the project came from four sources: primarily from a traditional Section 6 Grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife (TX E-160-R), from Texas A&M International University and Kettering University, and from the National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation Program (Award Number 1725938) for the KUHPC.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Applied BiologyKettering UniversityFlintUSA

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