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Ann Bot. 2012 Jul;110(1):71-90. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcs083. Epub 2012 Apr 25.

Phylogenetics of tribe Orchideae (Orchidaceae: Orchidoideae) based on combined DNA matrices: inferences regarding timing of diversification and evolution of pollination syndromes.

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Escuela Politécnica Superior de Huesca, Universidad de Zaragoza, carretera de Cuarte s/n., Huesca, Spain.



Tribe Orchideae (Orchidaceae: Orchidoideae) comprises around 62 mostly terrestrial genera, which are well represented in the Northern Temperate Zone and less frequently in tropical areas of both the Old and New Worlds. Phylogenetic relationships within this tribe have been studied previously using only nuclear ribosomal DNA (nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer, nrITS). However, different parts of the phylogenetic tree in these analyses were weakly supported, and integrating information from different plant genomes is clearly necessary in orchids, where reticulate evolution events are putatively common. The aims of this study were to: (1) obtain a well-supported and dated phylogenetic hypothesis for tribe Orchideae, (ii) assess appropriateness of recent nomenclatural changes in this tribe in the last decade, (3) detect possible examples of reticulate evolution and (4) analyse in a temporal context evolutionary trends for subtribe Orchidinae with special emphasis on pollination systems.


The analyses included 118 samples, belonging to 103 species and 25 genera, for three DNA regions (nrITS, mitochondrial cox1 intron and plastid rpl16 intron). Bayesian and maximum-parsimony methods were used to construct a well-supported and dated tree. Evolutionary trends in the subtribe were analysed using Bayesian and maximum-likelihood methods of character evolution.


The dated phylogenetic tree strongly supported the recently recircumscribed generic concepts of Bateman and collaborators. Moreover, it was found that Orchidinae have diversified in the Mediterranean basin during the last 15 million years, and one potential example of reticulate evolution in the subtribe was identified. In Orchidinae, pollination systems have shifted on numerous occasions during the last 23 million years.


The results indicate that ancestral Orchidinae were hymenopteran-pollinated, food-deceptive plants and that these traits have been dominant throughout the evolutionary history of the subtribe in the Mediterranean. Evidence was also obtained that the onset of sexual deception might be linked to an increase in labellum size, and the possibility is discussed that diversification in Orchidinae developed in parallel with diversification of bees and wasps from the Miocene onwards.

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