Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 270, Issue 1–2, pp 39–57

Climate and the evolution of annual/perennial life-histories in Nemesia (Scrophulariaceae)



The Cape Floristic Region and the Succulent Karoo in southwestern Africa are both noted for their plant species richness and high levels of endemism. The southwestern tip of Africa is one of the world's five Mediterranean-type climate regions. The biodiversity in the Cape Floristic Region and Succulent Karoo is thought to be at least partly due to changes to the climate of these regions that have occurred since the middle Miocene. Annual species are usually a significant proportion of local flora in Mediterranean-type climate regions. Previous studies of species radiations in the Cape Floristic Region have concentrated on genera that predominantly contain perennial species. Nemesia (Scrophulariaceae) comprises c. 65 species of annual and perennial herbs and sub-shrubs that are native to southern and tropical Africa. Annuals make up a significant proportion (~75%) of Nemesia species. We have reconstructed a phylogeny of 23 Nemesia species using nucleotide sequences of the ITS, ETS and trnL-spacer regions. Species were grouped into five clades, two composed of annual species, one that contained two annual and one perennial species, one that contained one annual and two perennial species, and one that was predominantly composed of perennial species. Phylogenetic dating of the ITS + ETS based phylogenetic tree using penalised likelihood suggested the genus evolved during the Miocene, and that the majority of extant Nemesia species studied radiated during the Pliocene. Ancestral state reconstruction supports at least three separate origins of the annual habit from plants with a perennial life history. One origin can be traced to the late Miocene while the other two transitions occurred more recently during the Pliocene. The transition from perennial to annual life-histories in Nemesia may have been a response to climate change.


Cape Floristic Region ETS Hemimerideae ITS molecular phylogeny Nemesia speciation trnL-spacer 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Horticulture and Food Research Institute of New Zealand LtdAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.California Academy of SciencesSan FranciscoUSA

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