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Desert Plants and Deserted Islands: Systematics and Ethnobotany in Caryophyllaceae
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Organismal Biology, Systematic Biology. (Systematic Biology)
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Background. Caryophyllaceae is a large and cosmopolitic flowering plant family, however the systematics of many of its basal groups has been unclear, due to a lack of unambiguous morphology. Some members of Caryophyllaceae are used medicinally, e.g. Corrigiola roots in Morocco. Monitoring the trade in medicinal plants is complicated due to the absence of useful identification characters in plant products such as roots, bark, and powders.

This thesis aims at elucidating the systematics and the ethnobotany of some of the basal clades in Caryophyllaceae. Methods. A comprehensive sampling from herbarium as well as market and field collected material was used in systematic studies combining morphological investigation, molecular phylogenetic and molecular dating analyses. Results. The data show that Polycarpon is polyphyletic, that Sphaerocoma is sister to Pollichia and shows some intraspecific variation, that Sanctambrosia falls within the genus Spergularia, and that both Spergula and Spergularia are monophyletic. Preliminary data suggest that Polycarpaea is polyphyletic and should be split into three larger and several smaller genera, that the members of Paronychia subgen. Anaplonychia will need to be transferred to Herniaria to maintain monophyly, and that Caryophyllaceae emerged during the Paleocene. All the major extant lineages originated in the Oligocene and diversified later. Using molecular identification it was possible to identify around 50% of the Moroccan medicinal roots to species level and an additional 30% to genus level. Discussion and conclusions. The polyphyletic Polycarpon needs to be split into at least three separate genera, but no name changes were made pending further research. The two species of Sphaerocoma were merged into one species with two subspecies. The San Ambrosio Island endemic Sanctambrosia, the only tree-like plant in Caryophyllaceae, is probably the result of a long distance dispersal event and its woody habit and gynodioecy are probably caused by inbreeding depression. Sanctambrosia manicata is transferred to Spergularia. Molecular identification put into practice on traded medicinal roots has a somewhat lower success rate than most theoretical studies, indicating that a global barcoding database would need to include reference sequences from a broad range of populations for each species.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2012. , 52 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 972
Keyword [en]
BEAST, Corrigiola, DNA barcoding, Morocco, Pollichia, Polycarpon, Polycarpaea, RAxML, Sanctambrosia, Spergula, Spergularia, Sphaerocoma
National Category
Biological Sciences Botany Biological Systematics
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-179853ISBN: 978-91-554-8471-2OAI: diva2:546726
Public defence
2012-10-26, Lindahlsalen, Norbyvägen 18, Uppsala, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2012-10-04 Created: 2012-08-24 Last updated: 2013-04-02
List of papers
1. Polyphyly of Polycarpon (Caryophyllaceae) inferred from DNA sequence data
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Polyphyly of Polycarpon (Caryophyllaceae) inferred from DNA sequence data
2007 (English)In: Taxon, ISSN 0040-0262, Vol. 56, no 3, 775-782 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

A phylogenetic study of the genus Polycarpon was made using DNA sequence data from the chloroplast rps16 intron and nuclear RPB2 regions. Polycarpon as currently recognised is shown to be polyphyletic. The South American species P. coquimbense and P. suffruticosum are more closely related to Haya obovata (Socotra) and Polycarpaea spicata (paleotropical) than to the remaining species of Polycarpon, and the widespread tropical species P. prostratum is nested with Macaronesian species of Polycarpaea. All three should therefore be ex- cluded from Polycarpon. The remaining species, the P. tetraphyllum group, has its main diversity in the Medi- terranean region. It is a polyploid complex with morphologically very similar taxa mostly separated only by partially overlapping characters. The members of this group form a strongly supported, but largely unresolved clade. It is proposed that they are all included in a widely circumscribed P. tetraphyllum. The dehiscence of the capsules in P. tetraphyllum, by valves that elastically roll inwards and finally throw out the seeds, is unique in Caryophyllaceae and provides a strong synapomorphy for Polycarpon in this new restricted sense.

National Category
Natural Sciences
Research subject
Biology with specialization in Systematics
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-166217 (URN)
Available from: 2012-01-11 Created: 2012-01-11 Last updated: 2012-10-05
2. Bristly versus juicy: Phylogenetic position and taxonomy of Sphaerocoma (Caryophyllaceae)
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Bristly versus juicy: Phylogenetic position and taxonomy of Sphaerocoma (Caryophyllaceae)
2012 (English)In: Taxon, ISSN 0040-0262, Vol. 61, no 1, 67-75 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The phylogenetic position of the Afro-Asian genus Sphaerocoma is investigated using DNA sequences from plastid rps16 and ndhF, as well as from nuclear ITS and RPB2. Seven accessions of Sphaerocoma, representing all three currently recognized taxa, are analyzed along with sequences from genera that have been found to be closely related to Sphaerocoma in broader studies of Caryophyllaceae. The Afro-Arabian Pollichia is indicated as sister to Sphaerocoma, and this Sphaerocoma-Pollichia clade is sister to a clade with Macaronesian Polycarpaea and the widely distributed Polycarpon prostratum. A close relationship between the anemochorous Sphaerocoma and the endozoochorous Pollichia has never previously been suggested, but some similarities in, e.g., floral characters are pointed out. Sphaerocoma is strongly supported as monophyletic, but no significant molecular variation within the genus could be detected. A new taxonomy of Sphaerocoma is proposed, where a single species with two geographically and morphologically defined subspecies are recognized: S. hookeri subsp. hookeri in coastal areas along the Red Sea in Egypt, Sudan and Saudi-Arabia, near Aden in Yemen, and in Somalia, and S. hookeri subsp. aucheri comb. & stat. nov. in coastal areas in south-eastern Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Iran, and Pakistan. A lectotype is designated for S. hookeri.

Africa, Arabia, Caryophyllaceae, molecular phylogenetics, Pollichia, Polycarpaea, Sphaerocoma, taxonomy, typification
National Category
Biological Sciences
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-177876 (URN)000305357100005 ()
Available from: 2012-07-19 Created: 2012-07-19 Last updated: 2012-10-05Bibliographically approved
3. Sanctambrosia manicata (Caryophyllaceae), a giant spurrey on a tiny island
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sanctambrosia manicata (Caryophyllaceae), a giant spurrey on a tiny island
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Biological Sciences Biological Systematics Botany
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-179852 (URN)
Available from: 2012-08-24 Created: 2012-08-24 Last updated: 2012-10-05
4. Molecular identification of commercialized medicinal plants in southern Morocco
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Molecular identification of commercialized medicinal plants in southern Morocco
Show others...
2012 (English)In: PLoS ONE, ISSN 1932-6203, Vol. 7, no 6, e39459- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: Medicinal plant trade is important for local livelihoods. However, many medicinal plants are difficult to identify when they are sold as roots, powders or bark. DNA barcoding involves using a short, agreed-upon region of a genome as a unique identifier for species-ideally, as a global standard. Research Question: What is the functionality, efficacy and accuracy of the use of barcoding for identifying root material, using medicinal plant roots sold by herbalists in Marrakech, Morocco, as a test dataset. Methodology: In total, 111 root samples were sequenced for four proposed barcode regions rpoC1, psbA-trnH, matK and ITS. Sequences were searched against a tailored reference database of Moroccan medicinal plants and their closest relatives using BLAST and Blastclust, and through inference of RAxML phylograms of the aligned market and reference samples. Principal Findings: Sequencing success was high for rpoC1, psbA-trnH, and ITS, but low for matK. Searches using rpoC1 alone resulted in a number of ambiguous identifications, indicating insufficient DNA variation for accurate species-level identification. Combining rpoC1, psbA-trnH and ITS allowed the majority of the market samples to be identified to genus level. For a minority of the market samples, the barcoding identification differed significantly from previous hypotheses based on the vernacular names. Conclusions/Significance: Endemic plant species are commercialized in Marrakech. Adulteration is common and this may indicate that the products are becoming locally endangered. Nevertheless the majority of the traded roots belong to species that are common and not known to be endangered. A significant conclusion from our results is that unknown samples are more difficult to identify than earlier suggested, especially if the reference sequences were obtained from different populations. A global barcoding database should therefore contain sequences from different populations of the same species to assure the reference sequences characterize the species throughout its distributional range.

National Category
Botany Biological Systematics
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-178109 (URN)10.1371/journal.pone.0039459 (DOI)000305825800036 ()
Available from: 2012-07-27 Created: 2012-07-27 Last updated: 2012-10-05Bibliographically approved

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