Phylogenetic relationships, character evolution and biogeography of southern African members of Zygophyllum (Zygophyllaceae) based on three plastid regions

Bellstedt D.U. ; van Zyl L. ; Marais E.M. ; Bytebier B. ; de Villiers C.A. ; Makwarela A.M. ; Dreyer L.L. (2008)

Article

The plastid coding rbcL and non-coding trnLF regions of 53 of 55 southern African Zygophyllum species were sequenced and used to evaluate the phylogenetic relationships within the southern African representatives of the genus. Published sequences of the same gene regions of Australian, Asian and North African Zygophyllum species were included to assess the relationships of the species from these regions to the southern African species. The addition of Z. stapffii from Namibia, found to be conspecific with Z. orbiculatum from Angola, lead to a greatly resolved tree. The molecular results were largely congruent with a recent sectional classification of the southern African species and supported their subdivision into subgenera Agrophyllum and Zygophyllum. Reconstruction of the character evolution of capsule dehiscence, seed attachment and seed mucilage showed that these characters allowed a division of southern African species into the two subgenera but that this could not be applied to species occurring elsewhere. Other morphological characters were found to vary and unique character combinations, rather than unique characters, were found to be of systematic value in sectional delimitation. The study suggests that repeated radiations from the horn of Africa to southern Africa and Asia and back lead to the present distribution of the taxa in the subfamily Zygophylloideae. Although this study supports some of the recent taxonomic changes in the group, the unresolved relationships between the proposed genera Tetraena and Roepera and those retained as Zygophyllum species suggest that changes to the taxonomy may have been premature. © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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