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Phylogenetic Relationships and Evolution in the Strelitziaceae (Zingiberales)

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Evolutionary trends and phylogenetic relationships in the Strelitziaceae (Zingiberales) were investigated using sequence data from ten plastid and two nuclear regions and a morphological dataset. The status of species of Strelitzia were evaluated in terms of the phylogenetic species concept. Relationships among the genera remain equivocal with two hypotheses emerging: (i) Strelitzia sister to a clade comprising Ravenala and Phenakospermum when indels are included, or (ii) Ravenala sister to the remainder of the Strelitziaceae when indels are excluded in/from the combined molecular and ‘total evidence’ analyses. Within Strelitzia, S. nicolai is sister to the rest of the genus, with S. alba sister to S. caudata. Strelitzia reginae is shown to be paraphyletic as S. juncea is nested within it, but more sampling at the population level is needed to confirm the taxonomic status of S. juncea. The highly localized and endangered Strelitzia alba is confirmed as a distinct species, as are S. caudata and S. nicolai, despite few morphological differences. Evolutionary trends are linked to changes in habitat and coevolution with pollinators. Climate change in southern Africa is thought to have restricted Strelitzia nicolai (or its ancestor) to the eastern coastal region, with subsequent allopatric speciation of S. alba and S. caudata, and relatively recent parapatric divergence of S. juncea from S. reginae.

Keywords: Biogeography; Strelitzia; molecular phylogenetics; morphology; pollination

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2012

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