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An accurate characterization of biodiversity requires analyses of DNA sequences in addition to classical morphological descriptions. New methods based on high-throughput sequencing may allow investigation of specimens with a large set of genetic markers to infer their evolutionary history. In the grass family, the phylogenetic position of the monotypic genus Lecomtella, a rare bamboo-like endemic from Madagascar, has never been appropriately evaluated. Until now its taxonomic treatment has remained controversial, indicating the need for re-evaluation based on a combination of molecular and morphological data. The phylogenetic position of Lecomtella in Poaceae was evaluated based on sequences from the nuclear and plastid genomes generated by next-generation sequencing (NGS). In addition, a detailed morphological description of L. madagascariensis was produced, and its distribution and habit were investigated in order to assess its conservation status. The complete plastid sequence, a ribosomal DNA unit and fragments of low-copy nuclear genes (phyB and ppc) were obtained. All phylogenetic analyses place Lecomtella as an isolated member of the core panicoids, which last shared a common ancestor with other species >20 million years ago. Although Lecomtella exhibits morphological characters typical of Panicoideae, an unusual combination of traits supports its treatment as a separate group. The study showed that NGS can be used to generate abundant phylogenetic information rapidly, opening new avenues for grass phylogenetics. These data clearly showed that Lecomtella forms an isolated lineage, which, in combination with its morphological peculiarities, justifies its treatment as a separate tribe: Lecomtelleae. New descriptions of the tribe, genus and species are presented with a typification, a distribution map and an IUCN conservation assessment.


Guillaume Besnard, Pascal-Antoine Christin, Pierre-Jean G Malé, Eric Coissac, Hélène Ralimanana, Maria S Vorontsova. Phylogenomics and taxonomy of Lecomtelleae (Poaceae), an isolated panicoid lineage from Madagascar. Annals of botany. 2013 Oct;112(6):1057-66

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PMID: 23985988

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