Systematics of Nothofagus (Nothofagaceae) based on rDNA spacer sequences (ITS): taxonomic congruence with morphology and plastid sequences.
Phylogenetic relationships were examined within the southern beech family Nothofagaceae using 22 species representing the four currently recognized subgenera and related outgroups. Nuclear ribosomal DNA sequences encoding the 5.8s rRNA and two flanking internal transcribed spacers (ITS) provided 95 phylogenetically informative nucleotide sites from a single alignment of ~588 bases per species. Parsimony analysis of this variation produced two equally parsimonious trees supporting four monophyletic groups, which correspond to groups designated by pollen type. These topologies were compared to trees from reanalyses of previously reported rbcL sequences and a modified morphological data set. Results from parsimony analysis of the three data sets were highly congruent, with topological differences restricted to the placement of a few terminal taxa. Combined analysis of molecular and morphological data produced six equally parsimonious trees. The consensus of these trees suggests two basal clades within Nothofagus. Within the larger of the two clades, tropical Nothofagus (subgenus Brassospora) of New Guinea and New Caledonia are strongly supported as sister to cool-temperate species of South America (subgenus Nothofagus). Most of the morphological apomorphies of the cupule, fruit, and pollen of Nothofagus are distributed within this larger clade. An area cladogram based on the consensus of combined data supports three trans-Antarctic relationships, two within pollen groups and one between pollen groups. Fossil data support continuous ancestral distributions for all four pollen groups prior to continental drift; therefore, vicariance adequately explains two of these disjunctions. Extinction of trans-Antarctic sister taxa within formerly widespread pollen groups explains the third disjunction; this results in a biogeographic pattern indicative of phylogenetic relationship not vicariance. For the biogeographically informative vicariant clades, area relationships based on total evidence support the recently advanced hypothesis that New Zealand and Australia share a unique common ancestry. Contrary to previous thought, the distribution of extant Nothofagus is informative on the area relationships of the Southern Hemisphere, once precise phylogenetic relationships are placed in the context of fossil data.
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