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Article|13 Mar 2023|OPEN
Geographic–genomic and geographic–phenotypic differentiation of the Aquilegia viridiflora complex
Wei Zhang1 , Huaying Wang1 , , Tengjiao Zhang1 , Xiaoxue Fang1 , Meiying Liu and Hongxing Xiao, ,
1Key Laboratory of Molecular Epigenetics of Ministry of Education, College of Life Sciences, Northeast Normal University, Changchun 130024, China
*Corresponding author. E-mail:,

Horticulture Research 10,
Article number: uhad041 (2023)
Views: 155

Received: 04 Oct 2022
Accepted: 05 Mar 2023
Published online: 13 Mar 2023


How species diverge into different lineages is a central issue in evolutionary biology. Despite the increasing evidence indicating that such divergences do not need geographic isolation, the correlation between lineage divergence and the adaptive ecological divergence of phenotype corresponding to distribution is still unknown. In addition, gene flow has been widely detected during and through such diverging processes. We used one widely distributed Aquilegia viridiflora complex as a model system to examine genomic differentiation and corresponding phenotypic variations along geographic gradients. Our phenotypic analyses of 20 populations from northwest to northeast China identified two phenotypic groups along the geographic cline. All examined traits are distinct from each other, although a few intermediate individuals occur in their contacting regions. We further sequenced the genomes of representative individuals of each population. However, four distinct genetic lineages were detected based on nuclear genomes. In particular, we recovered numerous genetic hybrids in the contact regions of four lineages. Gene flow is widespread and continuous between four lineages but much higher between contacting lineages than geographically isolated lineages. Gene flow and natural selection might result in inconsistency between heredity and phenotype. Moreover, many genes with fast lineage-specific mutations were identified to be involved in local adaptation. Our results suggest that both geographic isolation and local selection exerted by the environment and pollinators may together create geographic distributions of phenotypic variations as well as the underlying genomic divergences in numerous lineages.