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Evolution of the genus Phlox

Current KSU workers involved: Carolyn J. Ferguson and Shannon D. Fehlberg (post doc)

Ecological genomics research in the Ferguson lab focuses on the plant genus Phlox (Polemoniaceae). Phlox is an ecologically diverse genus of ca. 65 species occurring mostly in North America. It provides an excellent study system for plant evolutionary biology, particularly with regard to questions of adaptation and polyploidy (whole genome duplication). Our lab has developed a comprehensive phylogenetic framework for the genus, as well as microsatellite markers. We are applying genomic tools in order to bridge macroevolutionary patterns, or phylogenetics, with population genetics. Questions of particular interest include: What are the origins of particular taxa, what are the patterns of gene flow among populations, and what are the patterns of hybridization? What are the evolutionary and ecological implications of variation in ploidy level within taxa? What is the functional significance of differences in positional placement of reproductive parts (stigma and anthers), and have these differences been driven by selection by pollinators? How much taxonomic import should such characteristics be given, in light of species criteria relating to evolutionary history and interfertility? Phlox is a non-model system with a complicated evolutionary history and complex natural variation; genomic tools help us unravel this intriguing complexity.