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Background Plastome sequences for 18 species of the PACMAD grasses (subfamilies Panicoideae, Aristidoideae, Chloridoideae, Micrairoideae, Arundinoideae, Danthonioideae) were analyzed phylogenomically. Next generation sequencing methods were used to provide complete plastome sequences for 12 species. Sanger sequencing was performed to determine the plastome of one species, Hakonechloa macra, to provide a reference for annotation. These analyses were conducted to resolve deep subfamilial relationships within the clade. Divergence estimates were assessed to determine potential factors that led to the rapid radiation of this lineage and its dominance of warmer open habitats. Results New plastomes were completely sequenced and characterized for 13 PACMAD species. An autapomorphic ~1140 bp deletion was found in Hakonechloa macra putatively pseudogenizing rpl14 and eliminating rpl16 from this plastome. Phylogenomic analyses support Panicoideae as the sister group to the ACMAD clade. Complete plastome sequences provide greater support at deep nodes within the PACMAD clade. The initial diversification of PACMAD subfamilies was estimated to occur at 32.4 mya. Conclusions Phylogenomic analyses of complete plastomes provides resolution for deep relationships of PACMAD grasses. The divergence estimate of 32.4 mya at the crown node of the PACMAD clade coincides with the Eocene-Oligocene Transition (EOT). The Eocene was a period of global cooling and drying, which led to forest fragmentation and the expansion of open habitats now dominated by these grasses. Understanding how these grasses are related and determining a cause for their rapid radiation allows for future predictions of grassland distribution in the face of a changing global climate.



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Department of Biological Sciences

Legacy Department

Department of Biological Sciences


This work was supported in part by the Plant Molecular Biology Center, the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Illinois University and the National Science Foundation under Grant Numbers DEB-1120750 to LGC, DEB-1120856 to SAK and DEB-1120761 to MRD.This article is made openly accessible in part by an award from the Northern Illinois University Libraries' Open Access Publishing Fund.




BMC Plant Biology

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© Cotton et al. 2015 This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.



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