Profile of a flower: How rates of morphological evolution drive floral diversification in Ericales and angiosperms

Julian Herting, Jürg Schönenberger, Hervé Sauquet

Premise: Recent studies of floral disparity in the asterid order Ericales have shown that flowers vary strongly among families and that disparity is unequally distributed between the three flower modules (perianth, androecium, gynoecium). However, it remains unknown whether these patterns are driven by heterogeneous rates of morphological evolution or other factors. Methods: Here, we compiled a data set of 33 floral characters scored for 414 species of Ericales sampled from 346 genera and all 22 families. We conducted ancestral state reconstructions using an equal-rates Markov model for each character. We estimated rates of morphological evolution for Ericales and for a separate angiosperm-wide data set of 19 characters and 792 species, creating “rate profiles” for Ericales, angiosperms, and major angiosperm subclades. We compared morphological rates among flower modules within each data set separately and between data sets, and we compared rates among angiosperm subclades using the angiosperm data set. Results: The androecium exhibits the highest evolutionary rates across most characters, whereas most perianth and gynoecium characters evolve more slowly in both Ericales and angiosperms. Both high and low rates of morphological evolution can result in high floral disparity in Ericales. Analyses of an angiosperm-wide floral data set reveal that this pattern appears to be conserved across most major angiosperm clades. Conclusions: Elevated rates of morphological evolution in the androecium of Ericales may explain the higher disparity reported for this floral module. Comparing rates of morphological evolution through rate profiles proves to be a powerful tool in understanding floral evolution.

Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research
External organisation(s)
National Herbarium of New South Wales, University of New South Wales
American journal of botany
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106008 Botany, 106012 Evolutionary research, 106042 Systematic botany
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Genetics, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics, Plant Science
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