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Complex patterns of ploidy in a holocentric plant clade (Schoenus, Cyperaceae) in the Cape biodiversity hotspot.

  • Elliott, Tammy L1, 2
  • Muasya, A Muthama2
  • Bureš, Petr1
  • 1 Masaryk University, Faculty of Science, Department of Botany and Zoology, Kotlarska 2, Brno, Czech Republic. , (Czechia)
  • 2 Bolus Herbarium, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch, Cape Town 7701, South Africa. , (South Africa)
Published Article
Annals of Botany
Oxford University Press
Publication Date
Feb 07, 2023
DOI: 10.1093/aob/mcac027
PMID: 35226733


It is unclear how widespread polyploidy is throughout the largest holocentric plant family - the Cyperaceae. Because of the prevalence of chromosomal fusions and fissions, which affect chromosome number but not genome size, it can be impossible to distinguish if individual plants are polyploids in holocentric lineages based on chromosome count data alone. Furthermore, it is unclear how differences in genome size and ploidy levels relate to environmental correlates within holocentric lineages, such as the Cyperaceae. We focus our analyses on tribe Schoeneae, and more specifically the southern African clade of Schoenus. We examine broad-scale patterns of genome size evolution in tribe Schoeneae and focus more intensely on determining the prevalence of polyploidy across the southern African Schoenus by inferring ploidy level with the program ChromEvol, as well as interpreting chromosome number and genome size data. We further investigate whether there are relationships between genome size/ploidy level and environmental variables across the nutrient-poor and summer-arid Cape biodiversity hotspot. Our results show a large increase in genome size, but not chromosome number, within Schoenus compared to other species in tribe Schoeneae. Across Schoenus, there is a positive relationship between chromosome number and genome size, and our results suggest that polyploidy is a relatively common process throughout the southern African Schoenus. At the regional scale of the Cape, we show that polyploids are more often associated with drier locations that have more variation in precipitation between dry and wet months, but these results are sensitive to the classification of ploidy level. Polyploidy is relatively common in the southern African Schoenus, where a positive relationship is observed between chromosome number and genome size. Thus, there may be a high incidence of polyploidy in holocentric plants, whose cell division properties differ from monocentrics. © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: [email protected].

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