Dark-colored Oncocyclus irises in Israel analyzed by AFLP, whole chloroplast genome sequencing and species distribution modeling
The Haynei is one of seven species aggregates (clusters of species having similar flower morphology) recognized in section Oncocyclus of genus Iris. This aggregate, characterized by dark-colored flowers, is represented by six species in Israel and adjacent Jordan. There is, however, no knowledge of the genetic relationship of these species making verification of their taxonomic status impossible. We investigated genetic variation in this group using analysis of whole chloroplast genomes and amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP). We also used species distribution modeling (SDM) to predict species ranges under current climatic conditions. We found some population groups within the currently recognized species of section Oncocyclus to represent dramatically different genetic entities which devaluates a general trend of merging many previously recognized species of section Oncocyclus based on their flower morphology. Despite the importance of homoploid hybridization in this group's evolution and some apparently sporadically happening inter-specific gene flow, the main evolutionary forces in Oncocyclus appear to be vicariance and spatial isolation. Our findings suggest that some of the currently recognized species in section Oncocyclus need revision. A revision must be based on genetic analyses allowing the reconstruction of ancestry and recognition of the importance of vicariance and spatial isolation in the evolution of this group. The implications of the present findings for conservation are discussed.