||Isabel Larridon, Helmut E. Walter, Pablo C. Guerrero, Milén Duarte, Mauricio A. Cisternas, Carol Peña Hernández, Kenneth Bauters, Pieter Asselman, Paul Goetghebeur, Marie-Stéphanie Samain
||INTRODUCTION, MATERIALS AND METHODS, RESULTS, DISCUSSION, CONCLUSIONS
||PREMISE OF THE STUDY: Species of the endemic Chilean cactus genus Copiapoa have cylindrical or (sub)globose stems that are solitary or form (large) clusters and typically yellow fl owers. Many species are threatened with extinction. Despite being icons of the Atacama Desert and well loved by cactus enthusiasts, the evolution and diversity of Copiapoa has not yet been studied using a molecular approach.
METHODS: Sequence data of three plastid DNA markers ( rpl32-trnL , trnH-psbA , ycf1 ) of 39 Copiapoa taxa were analyzed using maximum likelihood and Bayesian inference approaches. Species distributions were modeled based on geo-referenced localities and climatic data. Evolution of character states of four characters (root morphology, stem branching, stem shape, and stem diameter) as well as ancestral areas were reconstructed using a Bayesian and maximum likelihood framework, respectively.
KEY RESULTS: Clades of species are revealed. Though 32 morphologically defi ned species can be recognized, genetic diversity between some species and infraspecifi c taxa is too low to delimit their boundaries using plastid DNA markers. Recovered relationships are often supported by morphological and biogeographical patterns. The origin of Copiapoa likely lies between southern Peru and the extreme north of Chile. The Copiapó Valley limited colonization between two biogeographical areas.
CONCLUSIONS: Copiapoa is here defi ned to include 32 species and fi ve heterotypic subspecies. Thirty species are classifi ed into four sections and two subsections, while two species remain unplaced. A better understanding of evolution and diversity of Copiapoa will allow allocating conservation resources to the most threatened lineages and focusing conservation action on real biodiversity.
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