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Faculty and Staff
SUN Yongshuai
Principal Investigator
Academic title:
Postal Code:
Subject categories:
Evolutionary Ecology
Mailing Address:
88 Xuefu Road, Kunming, 650223, Yunnan, China


  Personal information    

  Family name: Sun      

  Given name: Yongshuai      

       Gender: male

      Nationality: People’s Republic of China  

     Positions: PI of the evolutionary ecology group 

     Academic title: Professor 

 E-mail: sunyongshuai@xtbg.ac.cn  

   Alternative E-mail: sunys85@foxmail.com 


2. Research Fields and Research plan 

2.1 Research Fields  

My research interest is about plant speciation and evolutionary adaptation, especially the forest health and ecological genomics. My team aims to achieve the ultimate goal of plant evolutionary ecology, that is, to understand the establishment process of a given life history within one taxon and life-history diversity across plant species. Furthermore, we are interested in the evolutionary adaptation to climate change and the formation of new lineages in plants. The core concepts are speciation and adaptation. In the past, many scientists in this field carried out a mass of artificial experiments in the wild and also laboratory, using artificial crossing and other methods of reproductive biology for plants. These works showed rich diversity in plant phenotypes and life-history features and also indicated the challenges in understanding of the underlying adaptation to ecological environments and the historically evolutionary processes. For example, the spatial structure (dispersal) and genetic drift, the phenotypic plasticity and also the convergently evolved phenotypes can be the underlying mechanisms that shaped the apparent patterns of phenotypes and life-history traits. Thus, scientists aiming to understand plant phenotypes and life-history features begin to employ molecular genetic data and methods to distinguish the complex factors involved into the past evolutionary processes.  

  In short, we study the distribution and diversity of plant phenotypes, such as life-history traits (flowering time and so on), using methods of evolutionary ecology, molecular ecology and ecological genomics. Based on these studies, we aim to understand the genetic basis of adaptation and speciation, to uncover the formation of phenotypic and life-history diversity, to find novel knowledge regarding to plant evolution, to construct new hypotheses of evolutionary ecology at the level the genomes or genes.  


2.2 Research plan  

The advanced molecular technology, such as high-throughout sequencing of DNA and RNA, can generate numerous genetic data and whole genome sequences. These novel data can show the relationships among individuals, populations and species, especially in combination with phenotypic data and niche boundary. Therefore, these new technologies provide plenty of opportunities to address the formation of life-history characters, functional traits and important phenotypes within plant species and enhance our understanding of the formation of ecological differences and reproductive isolation between lineages. In the future, we will use these novel technologies and datasets to carry out our evolutionary study and ecological genomics in depth.  

  For example, hybrid zones are well-known models for studying speciation and ecological adaptation. To date, the total number of plant hybrid zones detected in literatures was surprisingly small, due to challenge in identifying hybrid zones exactly. Our previous studies found signals of hybridization among four taxa of the Picea likiangensis species complex and also the hybridization among three Castanea species. These fundamental investigations showed that several hybrid populations might have formed in multiple regions. On the basis of these work, we plan an in-depth study of hybrid zones using multiple methods. (I) We plan to analyze the genetic structure of hybrid populations and infer the types of hybrid zones, based on population genomic analyses of a larger size of samples. (II) We will estimate the relative contribution from each parental taxon to the hybrid populations and resolve the genetic exchange between parental taxa using local ancestry inference and coalescent simulations. (III) Using the general linear mixed model and multiple regression analysis, we will test the role of environmental factors and geographic distance in the formation and maintenance of hybrid zones, and discuss the factors influencing genetic exchange between taxa. The series of studies above will reveal the important factors in processes of the formation and maintenance of hybrid zones, and illuminate the effects of hybrid populations on the divergence between parental taxa. These studies can deepen our understanding of the evolution of hybrid populations of plants, and can provide insights for developing efficient strategies for the conservation and management of biodiversity. 

  Additionally, we’d like to develop new projects to advance our understanding of speciation and adaptation in plants. Therefore, the works in future are not confined to the contents above.  




1.Wang DL, Sun YS, Lei WX, Zhu H, Wang J, Bi H, Feng S, Liu JQ, Ru DF: Backcrossing to different parents produced two distinct hybrid species. Heredity 2023. 

2.Lu ZQ, Sun YS, Li Y, Yang YZ, Wang GN, Liu JQ: Species delimitation and hybridization history of a hazel species complex. Annals of Botany 2021, 127(7):875-886. 

3.Sun YS, Lu ZQ, Zhu XF, Ma H: Genomic basis of homoploid hybrid speciation within chestnut trees. Nature Communications 2020, 11(1). 

4.Lu ZQ, Sun YS: Rhamnella intermedia (Rhamnaceae), a new evergreen species from southwest Guangxi. Phytokeys 2020(159):115-126. 

5.Zhu XF, Sun YS: The complete chloroplast genome of the endangered tree Parashorea chinensis (Dipterocarpaceae). Mitochondrial DNA Part B-Resources 2019, 4(1):1163-1164. 

6.Yang YZ, Li Y, Chen Q, Sun YS, Lu ZQ: WGDdetector: a pipeline for detecting whole genome duplication events using the genome or transcriptome annotations. Bmc Bioinformatics 2019, 20. 

7.Ma YZ, Wang J, Hu QJ, Li JL, Sun YS, Zhang L, Abbott RJ, Liu JQ, Mao KS: Ancient introgression drives adaptation to cooler and drier mountain habitats in a cypress species complex. Commun Biol 2019, 2. 

8.Liu ZQ, Sun YS: Rhamnella brachycarpa (Rhamnaceae ), a new species from Hainan Island, China. Phytokeys 2019(132):19-29. 

9.Feng S, Ru DF, Sun YS, Mao KS, Milne R, Liu JQ: Trans-lineage polymorphism and nonbifurcating diversification of the genus Picea. New Phytologist 2019, 222(1):576-587. 

10.Sun YS, Abbott RJ, Lu ZQ, Mao KS, Zhang L, Wang XJ, Ru DF, Liu JQ: Reticulate evolution within a spruce (Picea) species complex revealed by population genomic analysis. Evolution 2018, 72(12):2669-2681. 

11.Ru DF, Sun YS, Wang DL, Chen Y, Wang TJ, Hu QJ, Abbott RJ, Liu JQ: Population genomic analysis reveals that homoploid hybrid speciation can be a lengthy process. Molecular Ecology 2018, 27(23):4875-4887. 

12.Ru DF, Mao KS, Zhang L, Wang XJ, Lu ZQ, Sun YS: Genomic evidence for polyphyletic origins and interlineage gene flow within complex taxa: a case study of Picea brachytyla in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Molecular Ecology 2016, 25(11):2373-2386. 

13.Bi H, Yue W, Wang X, Zou JB, Li LL, Liu JQ, Sun YS: Pleistocene climate change promoted divergence between Picea asperata and P. crassifolia on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau through recent bottlenecks. Ecology and Evolution 2016, 6(13):4435-4444. 

14.Wang XY, Li YS, Liang QL, Zhang L, Wang Q, Hu H, Sun YS: Contrasting responses to Pleistocene climate changes: a case study of two sister species Allium cyathophorum and A. spicata (Amaryllidaceae) distributed in the eastern and western Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Ecology and Evolution 2015, 5(7):1513-1524. 

15.Sun YS, Li LL, Li L, Zou JB, Liu JQ: Distributional dynamics and interspecific gene flow in Picea likiangensis and P. wilsonii triggered by climate change on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Journal of Biogeography 2015, 42(3):475-484. 

16.Hu H, Al-Shehbaz IA, Sun YS, Hao GQ, Wang Q, Liu JQ: Species delimitation in Orychophragmus (Brassicaceae) based on chloroplast and nuclear DNA barcodes. Taxon 2015, 64(4):714-726. 

17.Wan DS, Sun YS, Zhang X, Bai XT, Wang J, Wang AL, Milne R: Multiple ITS Copies Reveal Extensive Hybridization within Rheum (Polygonaceae), a Genus That Has Undergone Rapid Radiation. Plos One 2014, 9(2). 

18.Sun YS, Abbott RJ, Li LL, Li L, Zou JB, Liu JQ: Evolutionary history of Purple cone spruce (Picea purpurea) in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau: homoploid hybrid origin and Pleistocene expansion. Molecular Ecology 2014, 23(2):343-359. 

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