Plastid phylogenomics resolves infrafamilial relationships of the Styracaceae and sheds light on the backbone relationships of the Ericales


Relationships among the genera of the small, woody family Styracaceae and among families of the large, diverse order Ericales have resisted complete resolution with sequences from one or a few genes. We used plastome sequencing to attempt to resolve the backbone relationships of Styracaceae and Ericales and to explore plastome structural evolution. Complete plastomes for 23 species are newly reported here, including 18 taxa of Styracaceae and five of Ericales (including species of Sapotaceae, Clethraceae, Symplocaceae, and Diapensiaceae). Combined with publicly available complete plastome data, this resulted in a data set of 60 plastomes, including 11 of the 12 genera of Styracaceae and 12 of 22 families of Ericales. Styracaceae plastomes were found to possess the quadripartite structure typical of angiosperms, with sizes ranging from 155 to 159 kb. Most of the plastomes were found to possess the full complement of typical angiosperm plastome genes. Unusual structural features were detected in plastomes of Alniphyllum and Bruinsmia, including the presence of a large 20-kb inversion (14 genes) in the Large Single-Copy region, the loss or pseudogenization of the clpP and accD genes in Bruinsmia, and the loss of the first exon of rps16 in B. styracoides. Likewise, the second intron from clpP was found to be lost in Alniphyllum and Huodendron. Phylogenomic analyses including all 79 plastid protein-coding genes provided improved resolution for relationships among the genera of Styracaceae and families of Ericales. Styracaceae was strongly supported as monophyletic, with Styrax, Huodendron, and a clade of Alniphyllum + Bruinsmia successively sister to the remainder of the family, all with strong support. All genera of Styracaceae were recovered as monophyletic, except for Halesia and Pterostyrax, which were each recovered as polyphyletic with strong support. Within Ericales, all families were recovered as monophyletic with strong support, with Balsaminaceae sister to remaining Ericales. Most relationships recovered in plastome analyses are congruent with previous analyses based on smaller data sets. Our results demonstrate the power of plastid phylogenomics to improve phylogenetic hypotheses among genera and families, and provide new insight into plastome evolution across Ericales.



Publication Date


Publication Title

Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution



Document Type





Styracaceae, Ericales, Plastome phylogenomics, Inversion, Gene loss





This document is currently not available here.