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BioMed Research International
Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 5792708, 13 pages
Research Article

Phylogeographic Structure of a Tethyan Relict Capparis spinosa (Capparaceae) Traces Pleistocene Geologic and Climatic Changes in the Western Himalayas, Tianshan Mountains, and Adjacent Desert Regions

1Key Laboratory of Biogeography and Bioresource in Arid Land, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi, Xinjiang 830011, China
2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
3Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China

Received 27 February 2016; Accepted 27 April 2016

Academic Editor: William H. Piel

Copyright © 2016 Qian Wang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Complex geological movements more or less affected or changed floristic structures, while the alternation of glacials and interglacials is presumed to have further shaped the present discontinuous genetic pattern of temperate plants. Here we consider Capparis spinosa, a xeromorphic Tethyan relict, to discuss its divergence pattern and explore how it responded in a stepwise fashion to Pleistocene geologic and climatic changes. 267 individuals from 31 populations were sampled and 24 haplotypes were identified, based on three cpDNA fragments (trnL-trnF, rps12-rpl20, and ndhF). SAMOVA clustered the 31 populations into 5 major clades. AMOVA suggests that gene flow between them might be restricted by vicariance. Molecular clock dating indicates that intraspecific divergence began in early Pleistocene, consistent with a time of intense uplift of the Himalaya and Tianshan Mountains, and intensified in mid-Pleistocene. Species distribution modeling suggests range reduction in the high mountains during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) as a result of cold climates when glacier advanced, while gorges at midelevations in Tianshan appear to have served as refugia. Populations of low-altitude desert regions, on the other hand, probably experienced only marginal impacts from glaciation, according to the high levels of genetic diversity.