J Plant Res 2019 May 16;132(3):335-344. Epub 2019 Apr 16.
Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, Lam Kam Road, Tai Po, Hong Kong, People's Republic of China.
Ottelia, a pantropical genus of aquatic plants belonging to the family Hydrocharitaceae, includes several narrowly distributed taxa in Asia. Although the Asian species have received comparatively more research attention than congeners in other areas, various key taxonomic questions remain unaddressed, especially with regards to apparent cryptic diversity within O. alismoides, a widespread species complex native to Asia, northern Australia and tropical Africa. Here we test taxonomic concepts and evaluate species boundaries using a phylogenetic framework. We sampled five of the seven species of Ottelia in Asia as well as each species endemic to Africa and Australia; multiple samples of O. alismoides were obtained from across Asia. Phylogenetic trees based on five plastid DNA markers and the nuclear ITS region shared almost identical topologies. A Bayesian coalescent method of species delimitation using the multi-locus data set discerned one species in Africa, one in Australia and four in Asia with the highest probability. The results lead us to infer that a population sampled in Thailand represents a hitherto unrecognised cryptic taxon within the widespread species complex, although the apparent lack of unambiguous diagnostic characters currently precludes formal description. Conversely, no molecular evidence for distinguishing O. cordata and O. emersa was obtained, and so the latter is synonymised under the former. Two accessions that exhibit inconsistent positions among our phylogenetic trees may represent cases of chloroplast capture, however incomplete lineage sorting or polyploidy are alternative hypotheses that ought to be tested using other molecular markers.