Phylogenomic analysis points to a South American origin of Manihot and illuminates the primary gene pool of cassava

Marcelo F. Simon, J. Moises Mendoza Flores, Hsiao‐Lei Liu, Márcio Lacerda Lopes Martins, Sergei V. Drovetski, Natalia A. S. Przelomska, Hope Loiselle, Taciana B. Cavalcanti, Peter W. Inglis, Natalie G. Mueller, Robin G. Allaby, Fábio de Oliveira Freitas, Logan Kistler

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The genus Manihot, with around 120 known species, is native to a wide range of habitats and regions in the tropical and subtropical Americas. Its high species richness and recent diversification only c. 6 million years ago have significantly complicated previous phylogenetic analyses. Several basic elements of Manihot evolutionary history therefore remain unresolved.

Here, we conduct a comprehensive phylogenomic analysis of Manihot, focusing on exhaustive sampling of South American taxa.

We find that two recently described species from northeast Brazil's Atlantic Forest were the earliest to diverge, strongly suggesting a South American common ancestor of Manihot. Ancestral state reconstruction indicates early Manihot diversification in dry forests, with numerous independent episodes of new habitat colonization, including into savannas and rainforests within South America. We identify the closest wild relatives to Manihot esculenta, including the crop cassava, and we quantify extensive wild introgression into the cassava gene pool from at least five wild species, including Manihot glaziovii, a species used widely in breeding programs. Finally, we show that this wild-to-crop introgression substantially shapes the mutation load in cassava.

Our findings provide a detailed case study for neotropical evolutionary history in a diverse and widespread group, and a robust phylogenomic framework for future Manihot and cassava research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)534-545
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number1
Early online date19 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • cassava
  • crop–wild relatives
  • diversification
  • herbarium genomics
  • introgression
  • neotropical evolutionary history
  • phylogenomics
  • plant domestication

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