Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Integrative Life Sciences

First Advisor

Gregory Plunkett


I studied evolutionary history in the angiosperm order Apiales, with a special emphasis on interactions between form, time, and space. Four broad categories of problems were addressed: interfamilial relationships in Apiales, the assignment of genera traditionally assigned to the Apiaceae subfamily Hydrocotyloideae, the estimation of divergence times of the major clades, and the reconstruction of the biogeographic history of Apiales. We used molecular markers with different evolutionary properties and rates derived from the plastid (trnD-trnT and rpl16), nuclear (RPB2), and mitochondrial (nad1 intron 2) genomes, from more than 250 species representing all major clades in the order. The nuclear RPB2 region exhibited evidence of at least six duplication events in Apiales and provided a rich source of information for understanding the origins of polyploid lineages, especially in Araliaceae. Sequence comparisons among the copies show that exon regions are highly conserved. All copies appear to be functional but may have undergone subfunctionalization. Phylogenetic analyses of the three genomes suggest that Hydrocotyloideae should be divided into as many as six evolutionary lineages, but that most taxa should be included in subfamilies Azorelloideae and Mackinlayoideae. Relationships among and within the major clades of Azorelloideae need further analyses since many genera appeared non-monophyletic (e.g., Azorella, Schizeilema, and Eremocharis). Mackinlayoideae appeared as the earliest diverging lineage of Apiaceae, but the plastid and nuclear trees were incongruent in the placement of the Platysace clade relative to Mackinlayoideae and the rest of Apiaceae. Among the remaining clades of suborder Apiineae, Myodocapaceae appeared sister to Apiaceae in both plastid and nuclear trees, preceded by the divergence of Araliaceae and then Pittosporaceae. At the base of the gene trees in Apiales, Griseliniaceae and Torricelliaceae formed successive sisters to Apiineae. The placement of Pennantiaceae as sister to the rest of Apiales was confirmed by plastid data, but was not found in the nuclear trees. The order appears to have originated in the Cretaceous, with Apiineae having an age of c. 100 Mya. Australasia appears to be the most likely center of origin for Apiineae and most of its major clades, except Azorelloideae (South America) and Apioideae-Saniculoideae (sub-Saharan Africa).


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2009

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Life Sciences Commons