Phylogenetic analysis reveals multiple introductions of Cynodon species in Australia.
The distinction between native and introduced flora within isolated land masses presents unique challenges. The geological and colonisation history of Australia, the world's largest island, makes it a valuable system for studying species endemism, introduction, and phylogeny. Using this strategy we investigated Australian cosmopolitan grasses belonging to the genus Cynodon. While it is believed that seven species of Cynodon are present in Australia, no genetic analyses have investigated the origin, diversity and phylogenetic history of Cynodon within Australia. To address this gap, 147 samples (92 from across Australia and 55 representing global distribution) were sequenced for a total of 3336 bp of chloroplast DNA spanning six genes. Data showed the presence of at least six putatively introduced Cynodon species (C. transvaalensis, C. incompletus, C. hirsutus, C. radiatus, C. plectostachyus and C. dactylon) in Australia and suggested multiple recent introductions. C. plectostachyus, a species often confused with C. nlemfuensis, was not previously considered to be present in Australia. Most significantly, we identified two common haplotypes that formed a monophyletic clade diverging from previously identified Cynodon species. We hypothesise that these two haplotypes may represent a previously undescribed species of Cynodon. We provide further evidence that two Australian native species, Brachyachne tenella and B. convergens belong in the genus Cynodon and, therefore, argue for the taxonomic revision of the genus Cynodon.