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1.  Reconstructing the age and historical biogeography of the ancient flowering-plant family Hydatellaceae (Nymphaeales) 
The aquatic flowering-plant family Hydatellaceae has a classic Gondwanan distribution, as it is found in Australia, India and New Zealand. To shed light on the biogeographic history of this apparently ancient branch of angiosperm phylogeny, we dated the family in the context of other seed-plant divergences, and evaluated its biogeography using parsimony and likelihood methods. We also explicitly tested the effect of different extinction rates on biogeographic inferences.
We infer that the stem lineage of Hydatellaceae originated in the Lower Cretaceous; in contrast, its crown originated much more recently, in the early Miocene, with the bulk of its diversification after the onset of the Pliocene. Biogeographic reconstructions predict a mix of dispersal and vicariance events, but considerations of geological history preclude most vicariance events, besides a split at the root of the family between southern and northern clades. High extinction rates are plausible in the family, and when these are taken into account there is greater uncertainty in biogeographic inferences.
A stem origin for Hydatellaceae in the Lower Cretaceous is consistent with the initial appearance of fossils attributed to its sister clade, the water lilies. In contrast, the crown clade is young, indicating that vicariant explanations for species outside Australia are improbable. Although long-distance dispersal is likely the primary driver of biogeographic distribution in Hydatellaceae, we infer that the recent drying out of central Australia divided the family into tropical vs. subtropical/temperate clades around the beginning of the Miocene.
PMCID: PMC4030046  PMID: 24884487
Aquatic plants, Austral, Ephemeral habitats, Extinction rates, Intercontinental dispersal, ANITA-grade angiosperms, Trithuria; Vicariance
2.  Unique stigmatic hairs and pollen-tube growth within the stigmatic cell wall in the early-divergent angiosperm family Hydatellaceae 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(4):599-608.
Background and Aims
The ultrastructure of the pollen tubes and the unusual multicellular stigmatic hairs of Trithuria, the sole genus of Hydatellaceae, are described in the context of comparative studies of stigmatic and transmitting tissue in other early-divergent angiosperms.
Scanning and transmission electron microscopy and immunocytochemistry are used to study the structure and composition of both mature and immature stigmatic hair cells and pollen-tube growth in Trithuria.
Key Results
Trithuria possesses a dry-type stigma. Pollen tubes grow within the cell walls of the long multicellular stigmatic hairs. Immunocytochemistry results suggest that arabinogalactan proteins are involved in attracting the pollen tubes through the stigmatic cuticle. Most tubes grow along the hair axis towards its base, but some grow towards the hair apex, suggesting that pollen tubes are guided by both physical constraints such as microfibril orientation and the presence of binding factors such as unesterified pectins and adhesive proteins.
The presence of a dry-type stigma in Trithuria supports the hypothesis that this condition is ancestral in angiosperms. Each multicellular stigmatic hair of Hydatellaceae is morphologically homologous with a stigmatic papilla of other angiosperms, but functions as an independent stigma and style. This unusual combination of factors makes Hydatellaceae a useful model for comparative studies of pollen-tube growth in early angiosperms.
PMCID: PMC3170147  PMID: 21320877
Angiosperm evolution; Hydatellaceae; immunocytochemistry; pollen-tube growth; stigma; Trithuria; ultrastructure
3.  Contrasting Biogeographic and Diversification Patterns in Two Mediterranean-Type Ecosystems 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39377.
The five Mediterranean regions of the world comprise almost 50,000 plant species (ca 20% of the known vascular plants) despite accounting for less than 5% of the world’s land surface. The ecology and evolutionary history of two of these regions, the Cape Floristic Region and the Mediterranean Basin, have been extensively investigated, but there have been few studies aimed at understanding the historical relationships between them. Here, we examine the biogeographic and diversification processes that shaped the evolution of plant diversity in the Cape and the Mediterranean Basin using a large plastid data set for the geophyte family Hyacinthaceae (comprising ca. 25% of the total diversity of the group), a group found mainly throughout Africa and Eurasia. Hyacinthaceae is a predominant group in the Cape and the Mediterranean Basin both in terms of number of species and their morphological and ecological variability. Using state-of-the-art methods in biogeography and diversification, we found that the Old World members of the family originated in sub-Saharan Africa at the Paleocene–Eocene boundary and that the two Mediterranean regions both have high diversification rates, but contrasting biogeographic histories. While the Cape diversity has been greatly influenced by its relationship with sub-Saharan Africa throughout the history of the family, the Mediterranean Basin had no connection with the latter after the onset of the Mediterranean climate in the region and the aridification of the Sahara. The Mediterranean Basin subsequently contributed significantly to the diversity of neighbouring areas, especially Northern Europe and the Middle East, whereas the Cape can be seen as a biogeographical cul-de-sac, with only a few dispersals toward sub-Saharan Africa. The understanding of the evolutionary history of these two important repositories of biodiversity would benefit from the application of the framework developed here to other groups of plants present in the two regions.
PMCID: PMC3379972  PMID: 22745743
4.  Comparative Ovule and Megagametophyte Development in Hydatellaceae and Water Lilies Reveal a Mosaic of Features Among the Earliest Angiosperms 
Annals of Botany  2008;101(7):941-956.
Background and Aims
The embryo sac, nucellus and integuments of the early-divergent angiosperms Hydatellaceae and other Nymphaeales are compared with those of other seed plants, in order to evaluate the evolutionary origin of these characters in the angiosperms.
Using light microscopy, ovule and embryo sac development are described in five (of 12) species of Trithuria, the sole genus of Hydatellaceae, and compared with those of Cabombaceae and Nymphaeaceae.
Key Results
The ovule of Trithuria is bitegmic and tenuinucellate, rather than bitegmic and crassinucellate as in most other Nymphaeales. The seed is operculate and possesses a perisperm that develops precociously, which are both key features of Nymphaeales. However, in the Indian species T. konkanensis, perisperm is relatively poorly developed by the time of fertilization. Perisperm cells in Trithuria become multinucleate during development, a feature observed also in other Nymphaeales. The outer integument is semi-annular (‘hood-shaped’), as in Cabombaceae and some Nymphaeaceae, in contrast to the annular (‘cap-shaped’) outer integument of some other Nymphaeaceae (e.g. Barclaya) and Amborella. The megagametophyte in Trithuria is monosporic and four-nucleate; at the two-nucleate stage both nuclei occur in the micropylar domain. Double megagametophytes were frequently observed, probably developed from different megaspores of the same tetrad. Indirect, but strong evidence is presented for apomictic embryo development in T. filamentosa.
Most features of the ovule and embryo sac of Trithuria are consistent with a close relationship with other Nymphaeales, especially Cabombaceae. The frequent occurrence of double megagametophytes in the same ovule indicates a high degree of developmental flexibility, and could provide a clue to the evolutionary origin of the Polygonum-type of angiosperm embryo sac.
PMCID: PMC2710223  PMID: 18378513
Embryo sac; megagametophyte; ovule; Hydatellaceae; Trithuria
5.  Seedling Diversity in Hydatellaceae: Implications for the Evolution of Angiosperm Cotyledons 
Annals of Botany  2007;101(1):153-164.
Background and Aims
Cotyledon number has long been a primary morphological feature distinguishing monocots from other angiosperms. Recent placement of Hydatellaceae near the early-divergent angiosperm order Nymphaeales, rather than in the monocot order Poales, has prompted reassessment of seedling morphology in this poorly known family.
Seedlings of six species representing all eco-geographical groups of Hydatellaceae are described using light and scanning electron microscopy.
Key Results
Two seedling types were discovered. Material examined of Trithuria submersa, T. bibracteata, T. austinensis and T. filamentosa possess a transparent bilobed sheathing structure that surrounds the main axis below the first foliage leaf. The seed coat is attached to the sheathing structure. Seedlings of Trithuria lanterna and T. konkanensis lack a sheathing structure, and the seed coat is attached to a short, narrow lateral outgrowth on the main axis of the seedling.
The sheathing structure that is present in seedlings of some Hydatellaceae could be homologized with the two united cotyledons of water lilies. It also resembles the single cotyledon of some monocots, and hence demonstrates a possible pathway of the origin of a monocot-like embryo, though no homology is implied. The sheathing structure is reduced in Trithuria lanterna and T. konkanensis, and the short, narrow outgrowth of its seedling could represent a single cotyledon. This synapomorphy suggests that the only Indian species of Hydatellaceae, T. konkanensis, is closer to the northern Australian T. lanterna than to the south-western Australian T. bibracteata.
PMCID: PMC2701838  PMID: 18032428
Seedling; cotyledon; monocot; dicot; Hydatellaceae; Trithuria

Results 1-5 (5)