Testing ̈species pair̈ hypotheses: Evolutionary processes in the lichen-forming species complex Porpidia flavocoerulescens and Porpidia melinodes

Jutta Buschbom*, Gregory M. Mueller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Pairs of taxa are commonly found in lichen-forming ascomycetes that differ primarily in their reproductive modes: one taxon reproduces sexually, the other vegetatively. The evolutionary processes underlying such "species pairs" are unknown. The species pair formed by Porpidia flavocoerulescens (sexual) and Porpidia melinodes (vegetative) was chosen to investigate four previously proposed hypotheses. These hypotheses posit that species pairs are either two monophyletic, independently evolving species with contrasting reproductive mode; a single outcrossing species polymorphic with regard to its reproductive modes; a sexual mother lineage frequently giving rise to asexual spin-offs; or a complex of cryptic species. The phylogenetic patterns observed within the species pair in the present study were analyzed using stringent hypothesis testing and visualizations of relationships and conflict based on tree and network reconstructions. DNA sequences at the three analyzed loci revealed the same four to five deeply divergent lineages. A detailed analysis of DNA-sequence variability revealed closely linked gene loci, but high levels of conflict within each of the gene fragments, as well as between observed genetic lineages. The observed patterns of phylogenetic relationships, linkage, and conflict are not congruent with any of the previously proposed species pair hypotheses. Rather, it is proposed that the observed results can be explained by conflicting reproductive and nutritional requirements imposed by an obligate symbiotic lifestyle. These interacting constraints produce recurring selective sweeps within predominantly vegetatively reproducing lineages and are the main forces that shape the evolution within the investigated species pair.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)574-586
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2006


  • Ascomycota
  • Hypothesis testing
  • Molecular phylogenetics
  • Networks
  • Population-level processes
  • Porpidia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology


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