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Phylogenetic placement, delimitation, and relationships among genera of the enigmatic Nelsonioideae (Lamiales: Acanthaceae)

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We took a two-tiered approach to test monophyly of Nelsonioideae and place the group within Lamiales, and to determine relationships among taxa within the group. Phylogenetic analysis of a molecular dataset (ndhF+trnL-F) for a broad sample of Lamiales supports monophyly of Nelsonioideae and places the clade with strong support as sister to a lineage composed of all other plants treated as Acanthaceae (Avicennia, Thunbergioideae, Acanthoideae). We propose to treat this entire group as Acanthaceae s.l. and hypothesize that indurate, explosively dehiscent capsules are a synapomorphy for the family, albeit with autapomorphic fruit types in Avicennia and Mendoncia. These results further support monophyly of family-level groups that have emerged from recent studies of Lamiales but are largely unsuccessful in resolving relationships among these groups, as also encountered by other workers. Our results contradict some aspects of relationships that have seemed resolved by earlier studies, notably among Byblidaceae, Scrophulariaceae, Thomandersia, and other Lamiales. Among Nelsonioideae, analysis of sequence data from rapidly evolving genic regions (trnS-G, ndhF-rpl32+rpl32-trnL (UAG), nrITS) and a larger sample of nelso nioids (i.e., all genera and multiple taxa to represent the diversity of species-rich genera) indicates that Nelsonia and Elytraria are monophyletic with strong support, but with only moderate support for Nelsonia as the first branching clade and Elytraria sister to the remaining nelsonioids. An African clade comprising monospecific Saintpauliopsis sister to Anisosepalum (two of three species sampled) is sister to a clade that includes all sampled members of pantropical Staurogyne plus New World Gynocraterium and Asian Ophiorrhiziphyllon. Gynocraterium is sister to all sampled members of New World Staurogyne ; this last clade is sister to a clade comprising the other sampled Staurogyne plus Ophiorrhiziphyllon, which is nested among Asian Staurogyne. The taxonomic implications of these patterns of relationship are discussed. Our results suggest that Nelsonioideae have a complex history of inter-continental dispersals compared to other lineages of Acanthaceae of similar to much larger size in terms of number of species, making it an interesting group for biogeographic study.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, 1500 N. College Ave., Claremont, California 91711 U.S.A., Department of Botany, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California 91711 U.S.A.;, Email: [email protected] 2: Department of Botany, California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Dr., Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California 94118, U.S.A. 3: Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, 1500 N. College Ave., Claremont, California 91711 U.S.A., Department of Botany, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California 91711 U.S.A. 4: Department of Botany, Stockholm University, Lilla Frescativ√§gen 5, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

Publication date: 13 June 2012

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