2011-2015

2015
Zhenxiang Xi, Liang Liu, and Charles C. Davis. 11/2015. “Genes with minimal phylogenetic information are problematic for coalescent analyses when gene tree estimation is biased.” Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 92, Pp. 63-71.Abstract
The development and application of coalescent methods are undergoing rapid changes. One little explored area that bears on the application of gene-tree-based coalescent methods to species tree estimation is gene informativeness. Here, we investigate the accuracy of these coalescent methods when genes have minimal phylogenetic information, including the implementation of the multilocus bootstrap approach. Using simulated DNA sequences, we demonstrate that genes with minimal phylogenetic information can produce unreliable gene trees (i.e., high error in gene tree estimation), which may in turn reduce the accuracy of species tree estimation using gene-tree-based coalescent methods. We demonstrate that this problem can be alleviated by sampling more genes, as is commonly done in large-scale phylogenomic analyses. This applies even when these genes are minimally informative. If gene tree estimation is biased, however, gene-tree-based coalescent analyses will produce inconsistent results, which cannot be remedied by increasing the number of genes. In this case, it is not the gene-tree-based coalescent methods that are flawed, but rather the input data (i.e., estimated gene trees). Along these lines, the commonly used program PhyML has a tendency to infer one particular bifurcating topology even though it is best represented as a polytomy. We additionally corroborate these findings by analyzing the 183-locus mammal data set assembled by McCormack et al. (2012) using ultra-conserved elements (UCEs) and flanking DNA. Lastly, we demonstrate that when employing the multilocus bootstrap approach on this 183-locus data set, there is no strong conflict between species trees estimated from concatenation and gene-tree-based coalescent analyses, as has been previously suggested by Gatesy and Springer (2014).
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Charles C. Davis, Charles G. Willis, Bryan Connolly, Courtland Kelly, and Aaron M. Ellison. 10/2015. “Herbarium records are reliable sources of phenological change driven by climate and provide novel insights into species' phenological cueing mechanisms.” American Journal of Botany, 102, 10, Pp. 1599-609.Abstract

PREMISE OF THE STUDY: Climate change has resulted in major changes in the phenology of some species but not others. Long-term field observational records provide the best assessment of these changes, but geographic and taxonomic biases limit their utility. Plant specimens in herbaria have been hypothesized to provide a wealth of additional data for studying phenological responses to climatic change. However, no study to our knowledge has comprehensively addressed whether herbarium data are accurate measures of phenological response and thus applicable to addressing such questions. METHODS: We compared flowering phenology determined from field observations (years 1852-1858, 1875, 1878-1908, 2003-2006, 2011-2013) and herbarium records (1852-2013) of 20 species from New England, United States. KEY RESULTS: Earliest flowering date estimated from herbarium records faithfully reflected field observations of first flowering date and substantially increased the sampling range across climatic conditions. Additionally, although most species demonstrated a response to interannual temperature variation, long-term temporal changes in phenological response were not detectable. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings support the use of herbarium records for understanding plant phenological responses to changes in temperature, and also importantly establish a new use of herbarium collections: inferring primary phenological cueing mechanisms of individual species (e.g., temperature, winter chilling, photoperiod). These latter data are lacking from most investigations of phenological change, but are vital for understanding differential responses of individual species to ongoing climate change.

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Charles C. Davis and Aaron M. Ellison. 9/19/2015. “Opinion: Pope Francis' environmental encyclical cannot be ignored.” The Seattle Times. Publisher's Version PDF
Carl Veller, Martin A. Nowak, and Charles C. Davis. 7/2015. “Extended flowering intervals of bamboos evolved by discrete multiplication.” Ecology Letters, 18, Pp. 653-9.Abstract

Numerous bamboo species collectively flower and seed at dramatically extended, regular intervals - some as long as 120 years. These collective seed releases, termed 'masts', are thought to be a strategy to overwhelm seed predators or to maximise pollination rates. But why are the intervals so long, and how did they evolve? We propose a simple mathematical model that supports their evolution as a two-step process: First, an initial phase in which a mostly annually flowering population synchronises onto a small multi-year interval. Second, a phase of successive small multiplications of the initial synchronisation interval, resulting in the extraordinary intervals seen today. A prediction of the hypothesis is that mast intervals observed today should factorise into small prime numbers. Using a historical data set of bamboo flowering observations, we find strong evidence in favour of this prediction. Our hypothesis provides the first theoretical explanation for the mechanism underlying this remarkable phenomenon.

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Charles C. Davis and Zhenxiang Xi. 6/3/2015. “Horizontal gene transfer in parasitic plants.” Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 26, Pp. 14-19.Abstract

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) between species has been a major focus of plant evolutionary research during the past decade. Parasitic plants, which establish a direct connection with their hosts, have provided excellent examples of how these transfers are facilitated via the intimacy of this symbiosis. In particular, phylogenetic studies from diverse clades indicate that parasitic plants represent a rich system for studying this phenomenon. Here, HGT has been shown to be astonishingly high in the mitochondrial genome, and appreciable in the nuclear genome. Although explicit tests remain to be performed, some transgenes have been hypothesized to be functional in their recipient species, thus providing a new perspective on the evolution of novelty in parasitic plants.

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Charlie G. Willis and Charles C. Davis. 5/15/2015. “Rethinking migration.” Science, 348, 6236, Pp. 766. PDF
Liang Liu, Zhenxiang Xi, Shaoyuan Wu, Charles C. Davis, and Scott V. Edwards. 4/15/2015. “Estimating phylogenetic trees from genome-scale data.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1360, Pp. 36-53.Abstract

The heterogeneity of signals in the genomes of diverse organisms poses challenges for traditional phylogenetic analysis. Phylogenetic methods known as "species tree" methods have been proposed to directly address one important source of gene tree heterogeneity, namely the incomplete lineage sorting that occurs when evolving lineages radiate rapidly, resulting in a diversity of gene trees from a single underlying species tree. Here we review theory and empirical examples that help clarify conflicts between species tree and concatenation methods, and misconceptions in the literature about the performance of species tree methods. Considering concatenation as a special case of the multispecies coalescent model helps explain differences in the behavior of the two methods on phylogenomic data sets. Recent work suggests that species tree methods are more robust than concatenation approaches to some of the classic challenges of phylogenetic analysis, including rapidly evolving sites in DNA sequences and long-branch attraction. We show that approaches, such as binning, designed to augment the signal in species tree analyses can distort the distribution of gene trees and are inconsistent. Computationally efficient species tree methods incorporating biological realism are a key to phylogenetic analysis of whole-genome data.

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Goia M. Lyra, Emmanuelle de S. Costa, Priscilla de Jesus, Joao Carlos de Matos, Taiara A. Caires, Mariana C. Oliveira, Eurico C. Oliveira, Zhenxiang Xi, Jose Marcos de C. Nunes, and Charles C. Davis. 2015. “Phylogeny of Gracilariaceae (Rhodophyta): evidence from plastid and mitochondrial nucleotide sequences.” Journal of Phycology, 51, Pp. 356-66.Abstract

Gracilariaceae are mostly pantropical red algae and include ~230 species in seven genera. Infrafamilial classification of the group has long been based on reproductive characters, but previous phylogenies have shown that traditionally circumscribed groups are not monophyletic. We performed phylogenetic analyses using two plastid (universal plastid amplicon and rbcL) and one mitochondrial (cox1) loci from a greatly expanded number of taxa to better assess generic relationships and understand patterns of character distributions. Our analyses produce the most well-supported phylogeny of the family to date, and indicate that key characteristics of spermatangia and cystocarp type do not delineate genera as commonly suggested. Our results further indicate that Hydropuntia is not monophyletic. Given their morphological overlap with closely related members of Gracilaria, we propose that Hydropuntia be synonymized with the former. Our results additionally expand the known ranges of several Gracilariaceae species to include Brazil. Lastly, we demonstrate that the recently described Gracilaria yoneshigueana should be synonymized as G. domingensis based on morphological and molecular characters. These results demonstrate the utility of DNA barcoding for understanding poorly known and fragmentary materials of cryptic red algae.

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2014
Liang Liu, Zhenxiang Xi, and Charles C. Davis. 12/24/2014. “Coalescent methods are robust to the simultaneous effects of long branches and incomplete lineage sorting.” Molecular Biology and Evolution, 32, Pp. 791-805.Abstract

It is well known that species with elevated substitution rates can give rise to disproportionately long branches in the species tree. This combination of long and short branches can contribute to long-branch artifacts (LBA). Despite efforts to remedy LBA via increased taxon sampling and methodological improvements in gene tree estimation, it remains unclear how long and short branches affect species tree estimation in the presence of incomplete lineage sorting (ILS). Here, we examine the combined influence of long external and short internal branches on concatenation and coalescent methods using both simulated and empirical data. Our results demonstrate that the presence of long and short branches alone does not obviously confound the consistency of concatenation and coalescent methods. However, when long external and short internal branches occur simultaneously with high ILS, concatenation methods can be misled, especially when two of these long branches are sister lineages. In contrast, coalescent methods are more robust under these circumstances. This is particularly relevant because this topological pattern also characterizes numerous ancient rapid radiations across the tree of life. Because short internal branches can increase the potential for ILS and gene tree discordance, our results collectively suggest that coalescent methods are more likely to infer the correct species tree in cases of ancient rapid radiations where long external and short internal branches are in close phylogenetic proximity.

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Charles G. Willis, Brian F. Franzone, Zhenxiang Xi, and Charles C. Davis. 12/19/2014. “The establishment of Central American migratory corridors and the biogeographic origins of seasonally dry tropical forests in Mexico.” Frontiers in Genetics, 5, 433, Pp. 1-14.Abstract

Biogeography and community ecology can mutually illuminate the formation of a regional species pool or biome. Here, we apply phylogenetic methods to a large and diverse plant clade, Malpighiaceae, to characterize the formation of its species pool in Mexico, and its occupancy of the seasonally dry tropical forest (SDTF) biome that occurs there. We find that the ~162 species of Mexican Malpighiaceae represent ~33 dispersals from South America beginning in the Eocene and continuing until the Pliocene (~46.4-3.8 Myr). Furthermore, dispersal rates between South America and Mexico show a significant six-fold increase during the mid-Miocene (~23.9 Myr). We hypothesize that this increase marked the availability of Central America as an important corridor for Neotropical plant migration. We additionally demonstrate that this high rate of dispersal contributed substantially more to the phylogenetic diversity of Malpighiaceae in Mexico than in situ diversification. Finally, we show that most lineages arrived in Mexico pre-adapted with regard to one key SDTF trait, total annual precipitation. In contrast, these lineages adapted to a second key trait, precipitation seasonality, in situ as mountain building in the region gave rise to the abiotic parameters of extant SDTF. The timing of this in situ adaptation to seasonal precipitation suggests that SDTF likely originated its modern characteristics by the late Oligocene, but was geographically more restricted until its expansion in the mid-Miocene. These results highlight the complex interplay of dispersal, adaptation, and in situ diversification in the formation of tropical biomes. Our results additionally demonstrate that these processes are not static, and their relevance can change markedly over evolutionary time. This has important implications for understanding the origin of SDTF in Mexico, but also for understanding the temporal and spatial origin of biomes and regional species pools more broadly.

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Zhenxiang Xi, Liang Liu, Joshua S. Rest, and Charles C. Davis. 7/30/2014. “Coalescent versus concatenation methods and the placement of Amborella as sister to water lilies.” Systematic Biology, 63, 6, Pp. 919-932.Abstract

The molecular era has fundamentally reshaped our knowledge of the evolution and diversification of angiosperms. One outstanding question is the phylogenetic placement of Amborella trichopoda Baill., commonly thought to represent the first lineage of extant angiosperms. Here, we leverage publicly available data and provide a broad coalescent-based species tree estimation of 45 seed plants. By incorporating 310 nuclear genes, our coalescent analyses strongly support a clade containing Amborella plus water lilies (i.e., Nymphaeales) that is sister to all other angiosperms across different nucleotide rate partitions. Our results also show that commonly applied concatenation methods produce strongly supported, but incongruent placements of Amborella: slow-evolving nucleotide sites corroborate results from coalescent analyses, whereas fast-evolving sites place Amborella alone as the first lineage of extant angiosperms. We further explored the performance of coalescent versus concatenation methods using nucleotide sequences simulated on (i) the two alternate placements of Amborella with branch lengths and substitution model parameters estimated from each of the 310 nuclear genes and (ii) three hypothetical species trees that are topologically identical except with respect to the degree of deep coalescence and branch lengths. Our results collectively suggest that the Amborella alone placement inferred using concatenation methods is likely misled by fast-evolving sites. This appears to be exacerbated by the combination of long branches in stem group angiosperms, Amborella, and Nymphaeales with the short internal branch separating Amborella and Nymphaeales. In contrast, coalescent methods appear to be more robust to elevated substitution rates.

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Charles G. Willis and Charles C. Davis. 6/16/2014. “Reply to Angelo: Climate change and species loss in Thoreau's woods (Concord, Massachusetts, USA).” Phytoneuron, 59, Pp. 1-4. PDF
Whenzing Zhang, V.ictorW. Steinmann, Lachezar Nikolov, Elena M. Kramer, and Charles C. Davis. 2014. “Divergent genetic mechanisms underlie reversals to radial floral symmetry from diverse zygomorphic flowered ancestors.” Frontiers in Plant Science, 4, 302, Pp. 1-13.Abstract
Malpighiaceae possess flowers with a unique bilateral symmetry (zygomorphy), which is a hypothesized adaptation associated with specialization on neotropical oil bee pollinators. Gene expression of two representatives of the CYC2 lineage of floral symmetry TCP genes, CYC2A and CYC2B, demarcate the adaxial (dorsal) region of the flower in the characteristic zygomorphic flowers of most Malpighiaceae. Several clades within the family, however, have independently lost their specialized oil bee pollinators and reverted to radial flowers (actinomorphy) like their ancestors. Here, we investigate CYC2 expression associated with four independent reversals to actinomorphy. We demonstrate that these reversals are always associated with alteration of the highly conserved CYC2 expression pattern observed in most New World (NW) Malpighiaceae. In NW Lasiocarpus and Old World (OW) Microsteria, the expression of CYC2-like genes has expanded to include the ventral region of the corolla. Thus, the pattern of gene expression in these species has become radialized, which is comparable to what has been reported in the radial flowered legume clade Cadia. In striking contrast, in NW Psychopterys and OW Sphedamnocarpus, CYC2-like expression is entirely absent or at barely detectable levels. This is more similar to the pattern of CYC2 expression observed in radial flowered Arabidopsis. These results collectively indicate that, regardless of geographic distribution, reversals to similar floral phenotypes in this large tropical angiosperm clade have evolved via different genetic changes from an otherwise highly conserved developmental program.
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J. W. Horn, Z. Xi, R. Riina, J. A. Peirson, Y. Yang, B. L. Dorsey, P. E. Berry, C. C. Davis, and K. J. Wurdack. 2014. “Evolutionary bursts in Euphorbia (Euphorbiaceae) are linked with photosynthetic pathway.” Evolution, 68, Pp. 3485-504.Abstract

The mid-Cenozoic decline of atmospheric CO2 levels that promoted global climate change was critical to shaping contemporary arid ecosystems. Within angiosperms, two CO2 -concentrating mechanisms (CCMs)-crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) and C4 -evolved from the C3 photosynthetic pathway, enabling more efficient whole-plant function in such environments. Many angiosperm clades with CCMs are thought to have diversified rapidly due to Miocene aridification, but links between this climate change, CCM evolution, and increased net diversification rates (r) remain to be further understood. Euphorbia ( approximately 2000 species) includes a diversity of CAM-using stem succulents, plus a single species-rich C4 subclade. We used ancestral state reconstructions with a dated molecular phylogeny to reveal that CCMs independently evolved 17-22 times in Euphorbia, principally from the Miocene onwards. Analyses assessing among-lineage variation in r identified eight Euphorbia subclades with significantly increased r, six of which have a close temporal relationship with a lineage-corresponding CCM origin. Our trait-dependent diversification analysis indicated that r of Euphorbia CCM lineages is approximately threefold greater than C3 lineages. Overall, these results suggest that CCM evolution in Euphorbia was likely an adaptive strategy that enabled the occupation of increased arid niche space accompanying Miocene expansion of arid ecosystems. These opportunities evidently facilitated recent, replicated bursts of diversification in Euphorbia.

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L.achezar A. Nikolov, Yost M. Staedler, Sugumaram Manickam, Jurg Schonenberger, Peter K. Endress, Elena M. Kramer, and Charles C. Davis. 2014. “Floral structure and development in Rafflesiaceae with emphasis on their exceptional gynoecia.” American Journal of Botany, 101, 2, Pp. 225-43.Abstract

PREMISE OF THE STUDY: The holoparasitic plant family Rafflesiaceae include the world's largest flowers. Despite their iconic status, relatively little is known about the morphology and development of their flowers. A recent study clarified the organization of the outer (sterile) floral organs, surprisingly revealing that their distinctive floral chambers arose via different developmental pathways in the two major genera of the family. Here, we expand that research to investigate the structure and development of the reproductive organs of Rafflesiaceae. METHODS: Serial sectioning, scanning electron microscopy, and x-ray tomography of floral buds were employed to reconstruct the structure and development of all three Rafflesiaceae genera. KEY RESULTS: Unlike most angiosperms, which form their shoot apex from the primary morphological surface, the shoot apex of Rafflesiaceae instead forms secondarily via internal cell separation (schizogeny) along the distal boundary of the host-parasite interface. Similarly, the radially directed ovarial clefts of the gynoecium forms via schizogeny within solid tissue, and no carpels are initiated from the floral apex. CONCLUSIONS: The development of the shoot apex and gynoecium of Rafflesiaceae are highly unusual. Although secondary formation of the morphological surface from the shoot apex has been documented in other plant groups, secondary derivation of the inner gynoecium surface is otherwise unknown. Both features are likely synapomorphies of Rafflesiaceae. The secondary derivation of the shoot apex may protect the developing floral shoot as it emerges from within dense host tissue. The secondary formation of the ovarial clefts may generate the extensive placental area necessary to produce hundreds of thousands of ovules.

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L. A. Nikolov, P. B. Tomlinson, S. Manickam, P. K. Endress, E. M. Kramer, and C. C. Davis. 2014. “Holoparasitic Rafflesiaceae possess the most reduced endophytes and yet give rise to the world's largest flowers.” Ann Bot, 114, Pp. 233-42.Abstract

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Species in the holoparasitic plant family Rafflesiaceae exhibit one of the most highly modified vegetative bodies in flowering plants. Apart from the flower shoot and associated bracts, the parasite is a mycelium-like endophyte living inside their grapevine hosts. This study provides a comprehensive treatment of the endophytic vegetative body for all three genera of Rafflesiaceae (Rafflesia, Rhizanthes and Sapria), and reports on the cytology and development of the endophyte, including its structural connection to the host, shedding light on the poorly understood nature of this symbiosis. METHODS: Serial sectioning and staining with non-specific dyes, periodic-Schiff's reagent and aniline blue were employed in order to characterize the structure of the endophyte across a phylogenetically diverse sampling. KEY RESULTS: A previously identified difference in the nuclear size between Rafflesiaceae endophytes and their hosts was used to investigate the morphology and development of the endophytic body. The endophytes generally comprise uniseriate filaments oriented radially within the host root. The emergence of the parasite from the host during floral development is arrested in some cases by an apparent host response, but otherwise vegetative growth does not appear to elicit suppression by the host. CONCLUSIONS: Rafflesiaceae produce greatly reduced and modified vegetative bodies even when compared with the other holoparasitic angiosperms once grouped with Rafflesiaceae, which possess some vegetative differentiation. Based on previous studies of seeds together with these findings, it is concluded that the endophyte probably develops directly from a proembryo, and not from an embryo proper. Similarly, the flowering shoot arises directly from the undifferentiated endophyte. These filaments produce a protocorm in which a shoot apex originates endogenously by formation of a secondary morphological surface. This degree of modification to the vegetative body is exceptional within angiosperms and warrants additional investigation. Furthermore, the study highlights a mechanical isolation mechanism by which the host may defend itself from the parasite.

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Z. A. Panchen, R. B. Primack, B. Nordt, E. R. Ellwood, A. D. Stevens, S. S. Renner, C. G. Willis, R. Fahey, A. Whittemore, Y. Du, and C. C. Davis. 2014. “Leaf out times of temperate woody plants are related to phylogeny, deciduousness, growth habit and wood anatomy.” New Phytol, 203, Pp. 1208-19.Abstract

Leaf out phenology affects a wide variety of ecosystem processes and ecological interactions and will take on added significance as leaf out times increasingly shift in response to warming temperatures associated with climate change. There is, however, relatively little information available on the factors affecting species differences in leaf out phenology. An international team of researchers from eight Northern Hemisphere temperate botanical gardens recorded leaf out dates of c. 1600 woody species in 2011 and 2012. Leaf out dates in woody species differed by as much as 3 months at a single site and exhibited strong phylogenetic and anatomical relationships. On average, angiosperms leafed out earlier than gymnosperms, deciduous species earlier than evergreen species, shrubs earlier than trees, diffuse and semi-ring porous species earlier than ring porous species, and species with smaller diameter xylem vessels earlier than species with larger diameter vessels. The order of species leaf out was generally consistent between years and among sites. As species distribution and abundance shift due to climate change, interspecific differences in leaf out phenology may affect ecosystem processes such as carbon, water, and nutrient cycling. Our open access leaf out data provide a critical framework for monitoring and modelling such changes going forward.

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C. C. Davis, H. Schaefer, Z. Xi, D. A. Baum, M. J. Donoghue, and L. J. Harmon. 2014. “Long-term morphological stasis maintained by a plant-pollinator mutualism.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 111, Pp. 5914-5919.Abstract

Many major branches in the Tree of Life are marked by stereotyped body plans that have been maintained over long periods of time. One possible explanation for this stasis is that there are genetic or developmental constraints that restrict the origin of novel body plans. An alternative is that basic body plans are potentially quite labile, but are actively maintained by natural selection. We present evidence that the conserved floral morphology of a species-rich flowering plant clade, Malpighiaceae, has been actively maintained for tens of millions of years via stabilizing selection imposed by their specialist New World oil-bee pollinators. Nine clades that have lost their primary oil-bee pollinators show major evolutionary shifts in specific floral traits associated with oil-bee pollination, demonstrating that developmental constraint is not the primary cause of morphological stasis in Malpighiaceae. Interestingly, Malpighiaceae show a burst in species diversification coinciding with the origin of this plant-pollinator mutualism. One hypothesis to account for radiation despite morphological stasis is that although selection on pollinator efficiency explains the origin of this unique and conserved floral morphology, tight pollinator specificity subsequently permitted greatly enhanced diversification in this system.

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L. P. Lagomarsino, A. Antonelli, N. Muchhala, A. Timmermann, S. Mathews, and C. C. Davis. 2014. “Phylogeny, classification, and fruit evolution of the species-rich Neotropical bellflowers (Campanulaceae: Lobelioideae).” Am J Bot, 101, Pp. 2097-112.Abstract

* PREMISE OF THE STUDY: The species-rich Neotropical genera Centropogon, Burmeistera, and Siphocampylus represent more than half of the approximately 1200 species in the subfamily Lobelioideae (Campanulaceae). They exhibit remarkable morphological variation in floral morphology and habit. Limited taxon sampling and phylogenetic resolution, however, obscures our understanding of relationships between and within these genera and underscores our uncertainty of the systematic value of fruit type as a major diagnostic character.* METHODS: We inferred a phylogeny from five plastid DNA regions (rpl32-trnL, ndhF-rpl32, rps16-trnK, trnG-trnG-trns, rbcL) using maximum-likelihood and Bayesian inference. Ancestral character reconstructions were applied to infer patterns of fruit evolution.* KEY RESULTS: Our results demonstrate that the majority of species in the genera Centropogon, Burmeistera, and Siphocampylus together form a primarily mainland Neotropical clade, collectively termed the "centropogonids." Caribbean Siphocampylus, however, group with other Caribbean lobelioid species. We find high support for the monophyly of Burmeistera and the polyphyly of Centropogon and mainland Siphocampylus. The ancestral fruit type of the centropogonids is a capsule; berries have evolved independently multiple times.* CONCLUSIONS: Our plastid phylogeny greatly improves the phylogenetic resolution within Neotropical Lobelioideae and highlights the need for taxonomic revisions in the subfamily. Inference of ancestral character states identifies a dynamic pattern of fruit evolution within the centropogonids, emphasizing the difficulty of diagnosing broad taxonomic groups on the basis of fruit type. Finally, we identify that the centropogonids, Lysipomia, and Lobelia section Tupa form a Pan-Andean radiation with broad habitat diversity. This clade is a prime candidate for investigations of Neotropical biogeography and morphological evolution.

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A.M. Ellison, C. C. Davis, P. J. Calie, and R.F.C. Naczi. 2014. “Pitcher plants (Sarracenia) provide a 21st-century perspective on infraspecific ranks and interspecific hybrids: a modest proposal for appropriate recognition and usage.” Sys Bot, 39, Pp. 939-949.Abstract

Abstract—The taxonomic use of infraspecific ranks (subspecies, variety, subvariety, form, and subform), and the formal recognition of interspecific hybrid taxa, is permitted by the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants. However, considerable confusion regarding the biological and systematic merits is caused by current practice in the use of infraspecific ranks, which obscures the meaningful variability on which natural selection operates, and by the formal recognition of those interspecific hybrids that lack the potential for inter-lineage gene flow. These issues also may have pragmatic and legal consequences, especially regarding the legal delimitation and management of threatened and endangered species. A detailed comparison of three contemporary floras highlights the degree to which infraspecific and interspecific variation are treated inconsistently. An in-depth analysis of taxonomy of the North American flowering plant genus Sarracenia (Sarraceniaceae) provides an ideal case study illustrating the confusion that can arise from inconsistent and apparently arbitrary designation of infraspecific ranks and hybrid taxa. To alleviate these problems, we propose the abandonment of infraspecific ranks of “variety” and “form,” and discourage naming of sterile interspecific hybrids except for use in the horticultural or agronomic trade. Our recommendations for taxonomic practice are in accord with the objectives proposed in the Systematics Agenda 2000, Systematics Agenda 2020, and the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. Keywords—Flora, nomenclature, Sarracenia, species concept, systematics.

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