Convergent evolution of a complex fruit structure in the tribe Brassiceae (Brassicaceae).

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Premise of study

Many angiosperms have fruit morphologies that result in seeds from the same plant having different dispersal capabilities. A prime example is found in the Brassiceae (Brassicaceae), which has many members with segmented or heteroarthrocarpic fruits. Since only 40% of the genera are heteroarthrocarpic, this tribe provides an opportunity to study the evolution of an ecologically significant novelty and its variants.


We analyzed nuclear (PHYA) and plastid (matK) sequences from 66 accessions using maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian inference approaches. The evolution of heteroarthrocarpy and its variants was evaluated using maximum parsimony and maximum likelihood ancestral state reconstructions.

Key results

Although nuclear and plastid phylogenies are incongruent with each other, the following findings are consistent: (1) Cakile, Crambe, Vella, and Zilla lineages are monophyletic; (2) the Nigra lineage is not monophyletic; and (3) within the Cakile clade, Cakile, Didesmus, and Erucaria are paraphyletic. Despite differences in the matK and PHYA topologies at both deep and shallow nodes, similar patterns of morphological evolution emerge. Heteroarthrocarpy, a complex morphological trait, has evolved multiple times across the tribe. Moreover, there are convergent transitions in dehiscence capabilities and fruit disarticulation across the tribe.


We present the first explicit analysis of fruit evolution within the Brassiceae, which exemplifies evolutionary lability. The repeated loss and gain of segment dehiscence and disarticulation suggests conservation in the genetic pathway controlling abscission with differential expression across taxa. This study provides a strong foundation for future studies of mechanisms underlying variation in dispersal capabilities of Brassiceae.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Hall, JC; Tisdale, TE; Donohue, K; Wheeler, A; Al-Yahya, MA; Kramer, EM

Published Date

  • December 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 98 / 12

Start / End Page

  • 1989 - 2003

PubMed ID

  • 22081414

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1537-2197

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1537-2197

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.3732/ajb.1100203


  • eng