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Am J Bot. 2003 Mar;90(3):461-70. doi: 10.3732/ajb.90.3.461.

Gunnerales are sister to other core eudicots: implications for the evolution of pentamery.

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Department of Botany and the Genetics Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611 USA;


Phylogenetic relationships among many lineages of angiosperms have been clarified via the analysis of large molecular data sets. However, with a data set of three genes (18S rDNA, rbcL, and atpB), relationships among lineages of core eudicots (Berberidopsidales, Caryophyllales, Gunnerales, Santalales, Saxifragales, asterids, rosids) remain essentially unresolved. We added 26S rDNA sequences to a three-gene matrix for 201 eudicots (8430 base pair aligned nucleotides per taxon). Parsimony analyses provided moderate (84%) jackknife support for Gunnerales, which comprise the two enigmatic families Gunneraceae and Myrothamnaceae, as sister to all other core eudicots. This position of Gunnerales has important implications for floral evolution. A dimerous or trimerous perianth is frequently encountered in early-diverging eudicots (e.g., Buxaceae, Proteales, Ranunculales, Trochodendraceae), whereas in core eudicots, pentamery predominates. Significantly, dimery is found in Gunneraceae and perhaps Myrothamnaceae (the merosity of the latter has also been interpreted as labile). Parsimony reconstructions of perianth merosity demonstrate lability among early-diverging eudicots and further indicate that a dimerous perianth could be the immediate precursor to the pentamerous condition characteristic of core eudicots. Thus, the developmental canalization that yielded the pentamerous condition of core eudicots occurred after the node leading to Gunnerales.

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