Morphologically cryptic biological species within the liverwort Frullania asagrayana

Megan Ramaiya, Matthew G. Johnson, Blanka Shaw, Jochen Heinrichs, Jörn Hentschel, Matt von Konrat, Paul G. Davison, A. Jonathan Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Premise of the study: The Frullania tamarisci complex includes eight Holarctic liverwort species. One of these, F. asagrayana, is distributed broadly throughout eastern North America from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Preliminary genetic data suggested that the species includes two groups of populations. This study was designed to test whether the two groups are reproductively isolated biological species. Methods: Eighty-eight samples from across the range of F. asagrayana, plus 73 samples from one population, were genotyped for 13 microsatellite loci. Sequences for two plastid loci and nrITS were obtained from 13 accessions. Genetic data were analyzed using coalescent models and Bayesian inference. Key results: Frullania asagrayana is sequence-invariant at the two plastid loci and ITS2, but two clear groups were resolved by microsatellites. The two groups are largely reproductively isolated, but there is a low level of gene flow from the southern to the northern group. No gene flow was detected in the other direction. A local population was heterogeneous but displayed strong genetic structure. Conclusions: The genetic structure of F. asagrayana in eastern North America reflects morphologically cryptic differentiation between reproductively isolated groups of populations, near-panmixis within groups, and clonal propagation at local scales. Reproductive isolation between groups that are invariant at the level of nucleotide sequences shows that caution must be exer cised in making taxonomic and evolutionary inferences from reciprocal monophyly (or lack thereof) between putative species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1707-1718
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Biological species
  • Cryptic speciation
  • Frullania
  • Frullaniaceae
  • Gene flow
  • Population structure
  • Reproductive isolation


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