Journal: Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Volume: 34
Pages: 334-354


The biologically interesting ant–plant association, myrmecophytism, occurs in ca. 140 of the 11,000 species and 22 of the 630 genera of the coVee family (Rubiaceae). These myrmecophytic Rubiaceae species are predominantly distributed in Southeast Asia, especially the Malesian region, with comparatively few species in mainland Africa and the Neotropics. The mostly Southeast Asian genus Neonauclea s.s is one of the three Rubiaceae genera with extensive radiation of myrmecophytes and also the most speciose genus of the tribe Naucleeae s.l. We perform parsimony phylogenetic analyses of Neonauclea s.s., previously resolved as paraphyletic, and its allied genera using both ETS and ITS sequencing data to test: (1) the paraphyly of Neonauclea s.s.; (2) the phylogenetic relationships within the LudekiaMyrmeconaucleaNeonauclea complex; and (3) the evolution of myrmecophytism within the complex. The earlier proposed paraphyly of Neonauclea s.s. appears to be the result of the combined efects of parallel substitutions in Metadina trichotoma and the sampled ITS putative pseudogenes of Neonauclea longipedunculata and losses of some synapomorphies of Neonauclea s.s. in the latter. The analyses present strong support for the monophyly of Myrmeconauclea and Neonauclea s.s. and their sister- group relationships. Our findings additionally favor the hypothesis of multiple origins of myrmecophytism in the Bornean Neonauclea, which have independently been exploited by at least three Cladomyrma ant species. Furthermore, we interpret the low levels of variation in both the ETS and ITS sequences as indication of a recent and rapid radiation for Neonauclea s.s. (with 65 species) and a recent and slow radiation for Myrmeconauclea (with three species). We argue that the rapid diversification of Neonauclea s.s. is partly associated with the nature of its fruits and its ability to colonize a wide range of habitats. We postulate that both ecological and geographical events may have been responsible for the radiation of the non-myrmecophytic Neonauclea species. Finally, we argue that the acquisition of the pseudo-multiple fruits and long-tailed seeds has allowed Myrmeconauclea to specialize on rheophytic habitats but its narrow ecological tolerance may have hindered its speciation.