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Evolution. 2003 Jan;57(1):52-61.

Evolutionary processes in the genus Coreocarpus: insights from molecular phylogenetics.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Florida, PO Box 118525, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA. rkimball@zoo.ufl.edu


A molecular phylogenetic study of the plant genus Coreocarpus was conducted using nuclear (ITS) and plastid (rpl16 intron) DNA sequences, with phylogenies of the nuclear and plastid sequences highly congruent in defining a monophyletic group of six species (core Coreocarpus), although three other species often placed within the genus were excluded. Relationships within the genus are largely but not totally concordant with prior biosystematic studies. Despite strong molecular support, no morphological characters uniting the six species of core Coreocarpus have been identified; retention of plesiomorphic characters and the genetic lability of characters are two probable factors contributing to lack of consistent defining characters. The age of the core Coreocarpus is estimated at 1 million years because the basal species is endemic to a volcanic island that emerged in the past million years. Mapping the results of earlier breeding studies on the molecular phylogeny showed that use of cross-compatibility as a criterion for species delimitation would result in the recognition of paraphyletic species. Prior field, morphological, and biosystematic studies provided no indication of past hybridization in the evolution of Coreocarpus, and species in the genus appeared to be well defined morphologically. However, three instances of incongruence were observed. Two of these were between the nuclear and plastid partitions, and the third was between the morphological species assignment of one accession and the molecular data. If hybridization accounts for incongruence between the nuclear and plastid data, it occurred between species that now appear to be cross-incompatible and allopatric. The incongruence between morphological species assignment and the molecular data could be the result of parallel fixation of characters that have a simple genetic basis. This study suggests that the evolutionary history of Coreocarpus is much more complex than indicated from prior biosystematic investigations and that biosystematic and molecular phylogenetic studies may complement each other for elucidating the evolution and phylogeny of a group.

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