Floral morphologies may be less reliable than other traits in determining the relationships of papilionoid species and genera.
For hundreds of years, plant taxonomists have worked to understand how species are related. Until relatively recently, their only reliable source of information about these relationships was the plants' morphology -- traits that could be observed, measured, counted, categorized, and described visually. And paramount among these morphological traits were aspects of flower shape and arrangement. However, an international team of researchers have found that floral morphologies may be less reliable than other traits in determining the relationships of papilionoid species and genera. Despite their striking differences in flower shape, Luetzelburgia, Sweetia, Vatairea, and Vataireopsis turned out to be close relatives. Moreover, the two genera with papilionate flowers were not each other's closest relatives. According to Cardoso, "We showed that similarity in floral morphology does not predict phylogenetic relatedness. Indeed, genera with very different flower shapes are often very closely related (Luetzelburgia and Vatairea), and genera with highly similar flowers share such similarity via convergent evolution (Vatairea and Vataireopsis)."
Their findings can be found in the recent issue of the American Journal of Botany.
Link to article (March 4, 2013)
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