Breaking News: First species-level phylogeny of the genus Hyphaene

The first species-level phylogenetic analysis of the genus Hyphaene has been recently produced by Camille Christe, Yamama Naciri and Mathieu Perret from the laboratory of the Unité de Phylogénie et Génétique Moléculaires of the Conservatory and Botanic Gardens of Geneva. It is based on NGS techniques and is represented by up to 160 individuals sampled in at least 10 African countries. Five species are clearly recognized within the genus, whereas some hybrids individuals, mostly of cultivated origin, could be also detected. On-going analyses will provide critical information on the systematics and evolutionary history of the genus.

First species-level phylogeny produced for the enigmatic palm genus Hyphaene. Several important questions on the systematic relationships within the genus, evolutionary history of the aerial branching growth, typical for some species, and ages of origin and diversification, can be now addressed in a phylogenetic context. Note that the rare north-west Indian species H. dichotoma is not genetically different from the  morphologically closed H. compressa. This striking result was obtained by sequencing DNA extracted from leaves of H. dichotoma collected in India in 1908 and stored in the Kew herbarium. Thanks to Regine Niba for her skilled lab work and Sidonie Bellot and Bill Baker at Kew for sharing this precious specimen.

Distribution map of species within Hyphaene. The species Hyphaene macrosperma (Benin, Nigeria) and H. reptans (Somalia, Yemen) remain poorly known due to lack of specimens.