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Morphological convergence within the Ranunculaceae

Is morphological innovation highly constrained?

Carlos Lehnebach

Carlos Lehnebach

Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution,
Institute of Molecular BioSciences
Massey University
Palmerston North
New Zealand
Email: C.A.Lehnebach@massey.ac.nz
Tel: 6463569099
Fax: 6463505622

Dr. Peter Lockhart (AWCMEE),
Prof Phil Garnock-Jones (Victoria University of Wellington)

My work aims to tests evolutionary theory that, while evolution may be unplanned and undirected, pathways of change may nevertheless be constrained during species radiation. In this context, we can also test the significance of natural selection in shaping diversity; for it can be measured in terms of the extent of independent occurrences of morphological convergence amongst distantly related species which are restricted to similar ecological niches.


Robust large scale phylogenies are required to quantify this and provide a framework for morphological analyses. Currently I am developing two sequences datasets (matK and ITS) from Australasia, South and North American Ranunculus for this purpose. Additional matK and ITS sequences are also being determined by collaborators at LandCare Research and the Vienna Botanical Institute. These data will be analysed using a novel “supertree” method recently developed by collaborating mathematicians from the AWCMEE and the University of Canterbury Biomathematics Centre. Using herbarium and fresh material, as well as species habitat information, we will investigate evolutionary trends across the reconstructed phylogeny of ca. 500 species of Ranunculus from diverse habitats in different world regions.

Morphological diversity of <I>Ranunculus</I> species

Morphological diversity of Ranunculus species from South America and Europa (Hegi, 1974)