Genomic, habitat, and leaf shape analyses reveal a possible cryptic species and vulnerability to climate change in a threatened daisy

Colette Blyth, Matthew J. Christmas, Douglas C. Bickerton, Martin F. Breed, Nicole R. Foster, Greg R. Guerin, Alex R.G. Mason, Andrew J. Lowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Olearia pannosa is a plant species listed as vulnerable in Australia. Two subspecies are currently recognised (O. pannosa subsp. pannosa (silver daisy) and O. pannosa subsp. cardiophylla (velvet daisy)), which have overlapping ranges but distinct leaf shape. Remnant populations face threats from habitat fragmentation and climate change. We analysed range‐wide genomic data and leaf shape variation to assess population diversity and divergence and to inform conservation management strategies. We detected three distinct genetic groupings and a likely cryptic species. Samples identified as O. pannosa subsp. cardiophylla from the Flinders Ranges in South Australia were genetically distinct from all other samples and likely form a separate, range‐restricted species. Re-maining samples formed two genetic clusters, which aligned with leaf shape differences but not fully with current subspecies classifications. Levels of genetic diversity and inbreeding differed between the three genetic groups, suggesting each requires a separate management strategy. Addi-tionally, we tested for associations between genetic and environmental variation and carried out habitat suitability modelling for O. pannosa subsp. pannosa populations. We found mean annual maximum temperature explained a significant proportion of genomic variance. Habitat suitability modelling identified mean summer maximum temperature, precipitation seasonality and mean annual rainfall as constraints on the distribution of O. pannosa subsp. pannosa, highlighting increasing aridity as a threat for populations located near suitability thresholds. Our results suggest maximum temperature is an important agent of selection on O. pannosa subsp. pannosa and should be consid-ered in conservation strategies. We recommend taxonomic revision of O. pannosa and provide conservation management recommendations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number553
Number of pages32
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Conservation genomics
  • Cryptic species
  • Gene flow
  • Genetic diversity
  • Habitat suitability
  • Olearia pannosa


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