, Volume 278, Issue 1-2, pp 1-21
Date: 06 Feb 2009

Is morphology telling the truth about the evolution of the species rich genus Peperomia (Piperaceae)?

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Peperomia is with approximately 1,600 species one of the species rich angiosperm genera. Several characters on which current infrageneric classifications are based are influenced by parallel evolution. A well-resolved molecular backbone phylogeny of the genus is needed to address evolutionary questions about morphological traits. Based on separate and combined analyses of a morphological data set and three molecular data sets, phylogenetic relationships within Peperomia are investigated with respect to character evolution. The resulting trees from different datasets are highly congruent. Morphological characters are mapped on a combined molecular tree, visualizing the contrast between previously used homoplastic characters and some newly observed characters, that can be used to delimit monophyletic groups. Length mutational events of the chloroplast dataset are coded and plotted on the respective tree, to test if indels support alternative hypothesis of relationships found in the nuclear datasets as well as the overall performance of indels compared with substitutional mutations. Our findings indicate that length distribution of indels is highest among five and six bp events. Autapomorphic and synapomorphic length mutations are most frequent in both insertions and deletions and are also more frequent independent of the length of the mutation. Concluding, independent of the length, mutations are of phylogenetic importance and should not be disregarded. None of the homoplastic indels turn into synapomorphic indels, supporting the different topology of the nrDNA tree but indicate areas of molecular evolution in favour of length mutations resulting in independent events.