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Phylogeographic analysis of the fir species in southern China suggests complex origin and genetic admixture



Fir species are mainly distributed across the high latitudes, preferring cold climates. The phylogeographic origins of those subtropical fir species that occur in low latitudes in southern China remain elusive, as does the nature of any inter-lineage hybridization.


In fir species, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is maternally inherited and chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) is paternally inherited, and the genetic variations in the two make them particularly useful for examining species’ hybridizations and evolutionary histories.

Materials and methods

We sequenced four DNA fragments: two of mtDNA and two of cpDNA for 161 individuals from four subtropical endangered fir species (Abies beshanzuensis, Abies ziyuanensis, Abies yuanbaoshanensis, and Abies fanjingshanensis) and two more northerly distributed ones (Abies recurvata and Abies fargesii) from central and southwest China.


Three mitotypes and four chlorotypes were recovered from the four southern species. In most populations, individuals share a single fixed mitotype and chlorotype. Three mitotypes clustered into two distinct clades, each associated with one of the northern species examined. For four chlorotypes, one occurred in A. ziyuanensis, A. beshanzuensis, A. fargesii, and A. recurvata, another in A. ziyuanensis and A. recurvata, the remaining two differed from others by two mutations exclusively in A. fanjingshanenis and A. yuanbaoshanensis.


Phylogeographic origins of the subtropical fir species are complex, and genetic admixtures occurred during the evolutionary history of A. ziyuanensis. The genotyped populations further provide basic frames for genetic delimitation and effective conservation of these endangered species in the future.

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We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions. We thank John Blackwell for polishing the English of the final version.


This research was supported by grants from the Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant numbers 30725004) to J. Q. L.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jianquan Liu.

Additional information

Contribution of the co-authors

J.L. designed research; J.L., B.T., and G.R. collected samples; Y.P., J.W., Q.G, and B.T. performed research; Y.P. and J.L. analyzed data; and Y.P., S.Y. and J.L. wrote the paper.

Yanling Peng and Shuming Yin contributed equally to the work.

Handling Editor: Christophe Plomion

Electronic supplementary material

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Table S1

Locations of populations and sample sizes (N) of six closely related Abies spp. examined to determine mtDNA and cpDNA haplotypes. For each population, estimates of genetic diversity (H E) and nucleotide diversity (π) are given as a percentage (DOCX 20 kb)

Table S2

Variable sites of aligned sequences of two mtDNA fragments (nad7-1 and nad5-4) and two cpDNA fragments (trnS-G and trnL-F) from which five mitotypes and 17 chlorotypes were recorded across six closely related Abies spp. Sequences are numbered from the 5′ to the 3′ end in each region (DOCX 26 kb)

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Peng, Y., Yin, S., Wang, J. et al. Phylogeographic analysis of the fir species in southern China suggests complex origin and genetic admixture. Annals of Forest Science 69, 409–416 (2012).

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  • Fir species
  • mtDNA
  • cpDNA
  • Phylogeography
  • Genetic admixture