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Evolution. 2006 Jan;60(1):39-55.

Evolutionary radiation of "stone plants" in the genus Argyroderma (Aizoaceae): unraveling the effects of landscape, habitat, and flowering time.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine 92697, USA. monkeybeetle@gmail.com


Recent phylogenetic evidence suggests that the extraordinary diversity of the Cape Floristic Kingdom in South Africa may be the result of widespread evolutionary radiation. Our understanding of the role of adaptive versus neutral processes in these radiations remains largely speculative. In this study we investigated factors involved in the diversification of Argyroderma, a genus within the most spectacular of the Cape radiations, that of the Ruschioid subfamily of the Aizoaceae. We used amplified fragment length polymorphisms and a suite of morphological traits to elucidate patterns of differentiation within and between species of Argyroderma across the range of the genus. We then used a matrix correlation approach to assess the influence of landscape structure, edaphic gradients, and flowering phenology on phenotypic and neutral genetic divergence in the system. We found evidence for strong spatial genetic isolation at all taxonomic levels. In addition, genetic differentiation occurs along a temporal axis, between sympatric species with divergent flowering times. Morphological differentiation, which previous studies suggest is adaptive, occurs along a habitat axis, between populations occupying different edaphic microenvironments. Morphological differentiation is in turn significantly associated with flowering time shifts. Thus we propose that diversification within Argyroderma has occurred through a process of adaptive speciation in allopatry. Spatially isolated populations diverge phenotypically in response to divergent habitat selection, which in turn leads to the evolution of reproductive isolation through divergence of flowering phenologies, perhaps as a correlated response to morphological divergence. Evidence suggests that diversification of the group has proceeded in two phases: the first involving divergence of allopatric taxa on varied microhabitats within a novel habitat type (the quartz gravel plains), and the second involving range expansion of an early flowering phenotype on the most extreme edaphic habitat and subsequent incomplete differentiation of allopatric populations of the early flowering group. These results point to adaptive speciation in allopatry as a likely model for the spectacular diversification of the ice-plant family in the dissected landscapes of the southern African winter rainfall deserts.

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