The study found the survival and evolution mechanism of the genus New World in the northern temperate zone

From the perspective of history, the earth we live on is a dynamic planet that changes all the time. For example, the places we see today where plants grow naturally did not necessarily grow in the past, or there were completely different types of vegetation. So how did the rich plant diversity in these places evolve today? And how do they survive or even multiply rapidly in response to changes in the global climate?

The team of Nie Zelong, a professor at Jishou University, and the research group of Jun Wen, a researcher at the Smithsonian Institution, found through the phylogenomic genomics and biogeographic studies of the genus New World that refuges and extensive hybridization and gene penetration in low latitudes are important foundations and pathways for the survival and rapid evolution of plants in the northern temperate zone. Recently, the above results were published in the Journal of Botany (JIPB).

Frost grape (Vitis vulpina). Photo courtesy of interviewee

For a long period of geological history, the climate on Earth was much warmer than it is now, and the distribution of tropical plants was very extensive, not limited to the current tropics. The temperate regions of the middle and high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere were once extensively covered with tropical plant components, but later became barren in many places due to global climate cooling and extensive glacial cover.

In this study, researchers based on the phylogenetic genomics and biogeographic studies of 346 nuclear genes and chloroplast whole genome sequences, combined with a large number of fossil evidence to show that vitis plants were widely distributed in the middle and high latitudes of the northern hemisphere more than 60 million to 40 million years ago, and as the global temperature dropped, the ancestral taxa of grapevine plants were forced to migrate south, surviving the refuges distributed in the lower latitudes of the New World. About 20 million years ago, with global warming, the ancestral taxa of the genus Vitis migrated and spread from the relict refuge to the north, and rapidly multiplied and developed in the process of re-adapting to the climate turmoil in the northern temperate zone and the repeated contraction and expansion of flora, and extensive hybridization and gene penetration played a very large role in promoting this process.

This study reveals that the Pannorthern tropical refuge at low latitudes in the northern hemisphere is an important site for the survival of northern temperate taxa, and extensive hybridization and gene infiltration are important mechanisms for northern temperate taxa to adapt to environmental changes and differentiate rapidly. This may be an important mode of survival and development of temperate taxa, and has important reference value for studying the survival and evolution of plants in the northern hemisphere.

According to the reviewers, the results make a good contribution to understanding the evolution of the genus New World, and do beautiful work in synthesizing paleobotanical evidence and genomic data from existing taxa, and the importance of gene penetration in the evolutionary history of grapevine plants has never received such high attention.

Nie Zelong’s team and Jun Wen’s group have made a series of advances in the study of vittiaceae in recent years, and have previously revealed a global evolutionary pattern of the genus Snake Vitaceae, using phylogenetic genomic data to reveal the rapid evolutionary relationship of the genus and the systematic framework of the entire grape family. The results of this study further reveal the survival and development mechanism of the North American grapevine genus to adapt to severe climate change in the northern hemisphere.

The research was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the United States, respectively. (Source: Wang Haohao, China Science News)

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