Karyotype evolution in Phalaris (Poaceae): The role of reductional dysploidy, polyploidy and chromosome alteration in a wide-spread and diverse genus


Karyotype characteristics can provide valuable information on genome evolution and speciation, in particular in taxa with varying basic chromosome numbers and ploidy levels. Due to its worldwide distribution, remarkable variability in morphological traits and the fact that ploidy change plays a key role in its evolution, the canary grass genus Phalaris (Poaceae) is an excellent study system to investigate the role of chromosomal changes in species diversification and expansion. Phalaris comprises diploid species with two basic chromosome numbers of x = 6 and 7 as well as polyploids based on x = 7. To identify distinct karyotype structures and to trace chromosome evolution within the genus, we apply fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) of 5S and 45S rDNA probes in four diploid and four tetraploid Phalaris species of both basic numbers. The data agree with a dysploid reduction from x = 7 to x = 6 as the result of reciprocal translocations between three chromosomes of an ancestor with a diploid chromosome complement of 2n = 14. We recognize three different genomes in the genus: (1) the exclusively Mediterranean genome A based on x = 6, (2) the cosmopolitan genome B based on x = 7 and (3) a genome C based on x = 7 and with a distribution in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Both auto-and allopolyploidy of genomes B and C are suggested for the formation of tetraploids. The chromosomal divergence observed in Phalaris can be explained by the occurrence of dysploidy, the emergence of three different genomes, and the chromosome rearrangements accompanied by karyotype change and polyploidization. Mapping the recognized karyotypes on the existing phylogenetic tree suggests that genomes A and C are restricted to sections Phalaris and Bulbophalaris, respectively, while genome B occurs across all taxa with x = 7.