Background and Aims
In the Mascarenes, a young oceanic archipelago composed of three main islands, the Dombeyoideae (Malvaceae) have diversified extensively with a high endemism rate. With the exception of the genus Trochetia, Mascarene Dombeyoideae are described as dioecious whereas Malagasy and African species are considered to be monocline, species with individuals bearing hermaphrodite/perfect flowers. In this study, the phylogenetic relationships were reconstructed to clarify the taxonomy, understand the phylogeographic pattern of relationships and infer the evolution of the breeding systems for the Mascarenes Dombeyoideae.
Parsimony and Bayesian analysis of four DNA markers (ITS, rpl16 intron and two intergenic spacers trnQ-rsp16 and psbM-trnD) was used. The molecular matrix comprised 2985 characters and 48 taxa. The Bayesian phylogeny was used to infer phylogeographical hypotheses and the evolution of breeding systems.
Parsimony and Bayesian trees produced similar results. The Dombeyoideae from the Mascarenes are polyphyletic and distributed among four clades. Species of Dombeya, Trochetia and Ruizia are nested in the same clade, which implies the paraphyly of Dombeya. Additionally, it is shown that each of the four clades has an independent Malagasy origin. Two adaptive radiation events have occurred within two endemic lineages of the Mascarenes. The polyphyly of the Mascarene Dombeyoideae suggests at least three independent acquisitions of dioecy.
This molecular phylogeny highlights the taxonomic issues within the Dombeyoideae. Indeed, the limits and distinctions of the genera Dombeya, Trochetia and Ruizia should be reconsidered. The close phylogeographic relationships between the flora of the Mascarenes and Madagascar are confirmed. Despite their independent origins and a distinct evolutionary history, each endemic clade has developed a different breeding systems (dioecy) compared with the Malagasy Dombeyoideae. Sex separation appears as an evolutionary convergence and may be the consequence of selective pressures particular to insular environments.