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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2007 Dec;45(3):952-70. Epub 2007 Sep 21.

Are Cape floral clades the same age? Contemporaneous origins of two lineages in the genistoids s.l. (Fabaceae).

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School of Biological Sciences, Plant Sciences Laboratories, University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire RG6 6AS, UK.


The hypothesis that the elements of the modern species-rich flora of the Cape Floristic Region (CFR), South Africa, originated more or less simultaneously at the Miocene/Pliocene boundary, in response to the development of a mediterranean climate, has been challenged by numerous molecular dating estimates of Cape floral clades. These studies reveal a more gradual emergence, with the oldest clades originating in the Eocene, but others appearing later, some as recently as the Pliocene. That there are factors which might affect the dates recovered, such as choice of calibration point, analysis method, sampling density and the delimitation of Cape floral clades, suggests a need for further critical evaluation of the age estimates presented to date. In this study, the dates of origin of two Cape floral clades (the legume Crotalarieae p.p. and Podalyrieae) are estimated, constrained by a shared calibration point in a single analysis using an rDNA ITS phylogeny in which 633 taxa are sampled. The results indicate that these two clades arose contemporaneously 44-46 mya, not at the Miocene/Pliocene boundary as had been previously supposed. The contemporaneous origin of these Cape floral clades suggests that additional more inclusive analyses are needed before rejecting the hypothesis that a single environmental trigger explains the establishment of Cape floral clades.

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