Background and Aims Eleusine
(Poaceae) is a small genus of the subfamily Chloridoideae exhibiting considerable morphological and ecological diversity in East Africa and the Americas. The interspecific phylogenetic relationships of Eleusine are investigated in order to identify its allotetraploid origin, and a chronogram is estimated to infer temporal relationships between palaeoenvironment changes and divergence of Eleusine in East Africa.
Two low-copy nuclear (LCN) markers, Pepc4 and EF-1α, were analysed using parsimony, likelihood and Bayesian approaches. A chronogram of Eleusine was inferred from a combined data set of six plastid DNA markers (ndhA intron, ndhF, rps16-trnK, rps16 intron, rps3, and rpl32-trnL) using the Bayesian dating method.
The monophyly of Eleusine is strongly supported by sequence data from two LCN markers. In the cpDNA phylogeny, three tetraploid species (E. africana, E. coracana and E. kigeziensis) share a common ancestor with the E. indica–E. tristachya clade, which is considered a source of maternal parents for allotetraploids. Two homoeologous loci are isolated from three tetraploid species in the Pepc4 phylogeny, and the maternal parents receive further support. The A-type EF-1α sequences possess three characters, i.e. a large number of variations of intron 2; clade E-A distantly diverged from clade E-B and other diploid species; and seven deletions in intron 2, implying a possible derivation through a gene duplication event. The crown age of Eleusine and the allotetraploid lineage are 3·89 million years ago (mya) and 1·40 mya, respectively.
The molecular data support independent allotetraploid origins for E. kigeziensis and the E. africana–E. coracana clade. Both events may have involved diploids E. indica and E. tristachya as the maternal parents, but the paternal parents remain unidentified. The habitat-specific hypothesis is proposed to explain the divergence of Eleusine and its allotetraploid lineage.