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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2012 Aug;64(2):357-67. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2012.04.010. Epub 2012 Apr 24.

Phylogenetic placement of the enigmatic and critically endangered genus Saniculiphyllum (Saxifragaceae) inferred from combined analysis of plastid and nuclear DNA sequences.

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Key Laboratory of Biodiversity and Biogeography, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. 132, Lanhei Road, Kunming, Yunnan 650201, PR China.


Saniculiphyllum, a monotypic genus distributed in Southwest China, was thought to be extinct before our recent rediscovery. The taxonomic position of this genus has been enigmatic ever since its publication. It was originally treated as the only member of a distinct tribe Saniculiphylleae in the family Saxifragaceae. Some proposed a new family, Saniculophyllaceae, to accommodate this genus, although its affinities are clearly with members of Saxifragaceae. Here we analyzed six DNA regions, the nuclear ribosomal ITS and 26S rDNA and the plastid rbcL, matK, trnL-trnF, psbA-trnH genes, spacers, and intron to explore the phylogenetic position of Saniculiphyllum within Saxifragaceae. The combined nuclear and chloroplast dataset includes 63 ingroup species, representing all genera but Hieronymusia in the family. Results from likelihood, parsimony and Bayesian phylogenetic methods corroborate earlier results. Two clades of Saxifragaceae, the Heucheroid and Saxifragoid clades, were recovered. The topologies obtained from different analyses confirm the placement of Saniculiphyllum in Saxifragaceae, but our analyses reveal that Saniculiphyllum is embedded within the large Heucheroid clade. However, the closest relatives of Saniculiphyllum within the Heucheroid clade remain unclear. Combined with morphological data, our results suggest that Saniculiphyllum should best be regarded as a highly distinctive lineage within the Heucheroid clade of Saxifragaceae. Morphological novelties and conservation status of Saniculiphyllum are also presented.

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