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PeerJ. 2016 Jan 14;4:e1576. doi: 10.7717/peerj.1576. eCollection 2016.

Biogeographic barriers drive co-diversification within associated eukaryotes of the Sarracenia alata pitcher plant system.

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Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology, The Ohio State University , Columbus, OH , United States.
Department of Biology, Occidental College , Los Angeles, CA , United States.


Understanding if the members of an ecological community have co-diversified is a central concern of evolutionary biology, as co-diversification suggests prolonged association and possible coevolution. By sampling associated species from an ecosystem, researchers can better understand how abiotic and biotic factors influence diversification in a region. In particular, studies of co-distributed species that interact ecologically can allow us to disentangle the effect of how historical processes have helped shape community level structure and interactions. Here we investigate the Sarracenia alata pitcher plant system, an ecological community where many species from disparate taxonomic groups live inside the fluid-filled pitcher leaves. Direct sequencing of the eukaryotes present in the pitcher plant fluid enables us to better understand how a host plant can shape and contribute to the genetic structure of its associated inquilines, and to ask whether genetic variation in the taxa are structured in a similar manner to the host plant. We used 454 amplicon-based metagenomics to demonstrate that the pattern of genetic diversity in many, but not all, of the eukaryotic community is similar to that of S. alata, providing evidence that associated eukaryotes share an evolutionary history with the host pitcher plant. Our work provides further evidence that a host plant can influence the evolution of its associated commensals.


454 sequencing; Co-diversification; Metagenomics; Phylogeography; Sarracenia

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