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Proc Biol Sci. 2012 Oct 7;279(1744):3905-13. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.1110. Epub 2012 Jul 18.

Evolution of leaf form correlates with tropical-temperate transitions in Viburnum (Adoxaceae).

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.


Strong latitudinal patterns in leaf form are well documented in floristic comparisons and palaeobotanical studies. However, there is little agreement about their functional significance; in fact, it is still unknown to what degree these patterns were generated by repeated evolutionary adaptation. We analysed leaf form in the woody angiosperm clade Viburnum (Adoxaceae) and document evolutionarily correlated shifts in leafing habit, leaf margin morphology, leaf shape and climate. Multiple independent shifts between tropical and temperate forest habitats have repeatedly been accompanied by a change between evergreen, elliptical leaves with entire margins and deciduous, more rounded leaves with toothed or lobed margins. These consistent shifts in Viburnum support repeated evolutionary adaptation as a major determinant of the global correlation between leaf form and mean annual temperature. Our results provide a new theoretical grounding for the inference of past climates using fossil leaf assemblages.

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