The symmetry spectrum in a hybridising, tropical group of rhododendrons

Valerie L. Soza, Ricardo Kriebel, Elizabeth Ramage, Benjamin D. Hall, Alex D. Twyford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Summary
Many diverse plant clades possess bilaterally symmetrical flowers and specialised pollination syndromes, suggesting that these traits may promote diversification. We examined the evolution of diverse floral morphologies in a species-rich tropical radiation of Rhododendron.

We used restriction-site associated DNA sequencing on 114 taxa from Rhododendron sect. Schistanthe to reconstruct phylogenetic relationships and examine hybridisation. We then captured and quantified floral variation using geometric morphometric analyses, which we interpreted in a phylogenetic context.

We uncovered phylogenetic conflict and uncertainty caused by introgression within and between clades. Morphometric analyses revealed flower symmetry to be a morphological continuum without clear transitions between radial and bilateral symmetry. Tropical Rhododendron species that began diversifying into New Guinea c. 6 million years ago expanded into novel floral morphological space.

Our results showed that the evolution of tropical Rhododendron is characterised by recent speciation, recurrent hybridisation and the origin of floral novelty. Floral variation evolved via changes to multiple components of the corolla that are only recognised in geometric morphometrics with both front and side views of flowers.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalNew Phytologist
Early online date11 Mar 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Mar 2022

Keywords

  • flower symmetry
  • introgression
  • morphometrics
  • New Guinea
  • phylogenetics
  • Rhododendron
  • Southeast Asia
  • Vireyas

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