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A worldwide molecular phylogeny and classification of the leafy spurges, Euphorbia subgenus Esula (Euphorbiaceae)

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Abstract:

The leafy spurges, Euphorbia subg. Esula, make up one of four main lineages in Euphorbia. The subgenus comprises about 480 species, most of which are annual or perennial herbs, but with a small number of dendroid shrubs and nearly leafless, pencil-stemmed succulents as well. The subgenus constitutes the primary northern temperate radiation in Euphorbia. While the subgenus is most diverse from central Asia to the Mediterranean region, members of the group also occur in Africa, in the Indo-Pacific region, and in the New World. We have assembled the largest worldwide sampling of the group to date (273 spp.), representing most of the taxonomic and geographic breadth of the subgenus. We performed phylogenetic analyses of sequence data from the nuclear ribosomal ITS and plastid ndhF regions. Our individual and combined analyses produced well-resolved phylogenies that confirm many of the previously recognized clades and also establish a number of novel groupings and placements of previously enigmatic species. Euphorbia subg. Esula has a clear Eurasian center of diversity, and we provide evidence for four independent arrivals to the New World and three separate colonizations of tropical and southern Africa. One of the latter groups further extends to Madagascar and New Zealand, and to more isolated islands such as Réunion and Samoa. Our results confirm that the dendroid shrub and stem-succulent growth forms are derived conditions in E. subg. Esula. Stem-succulents arose twice in the subgenus and dendroid shrubs three times. Based on the molecular phylogeny, we propose a new classification for E. subg. Esula that recognizes 21 sections (four of them newly described and two elevated from subsectional rank), and we place over 95% of the accepted species in the subgenus into this new classification.

Keywords: BIOGEOGRAPHY; EUPHORBIA SUBG. ESULA; ITS; LEAFY SPURGES; MOLECULAR PHYLOGENY; NDHF

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12705/622.3

Affiliations: 1: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, 830 North University Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1048, U.S.A., Real Jardín Botánico, RJB-CSIC, Plaza de Murillo 2, 28014 Madrid, Spain 2: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, 830 North University Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1048, U.S.A. 3: Komarov Botanical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 2 Prof. Popov Street, St. Petersburg, 197376, Russia 4: Laboratori de Botànica, Facultat de Farmàcia, Universitat de Barcelona, Avda. Joan XXIII s.n., 08028 Barcelona, Spain 5: Institute of Botany, University of Innsbruck, Sternwartestrasse 15, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria 6: Department of Plant Systematics, University of Bayreuth, 95440 Bayreuth, Germany, Department of Botany, Iranian Research Institute of Plant Protection, P.O. Box 1454, Tehran 19395, Iran 7: Institut Botànic de Barcelona (CSIC-ICUB), Pg. del Migdia s.n., 08038 Barcelona, Spain 8: Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, 1500 North College Ave., Claremont, California 91711-3157, U.S.A. 9: Center of Excellence in Phylogeny of Living Organisms, Department of Plant Science, School of Biology, College of Science, University of Tehran, P.O. Box 14155-6455, Tehran, Iran 10: Bolus Herbarium, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa 11: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, 830 North University Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1048, U.S.A.;, Email: peberry@umich.edu

Publication date: April 20, 2013

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