Bias and conflict in phylogenetic inference of myco-heterotrophic plants: a case study in Thismiaceae

Authors

  • Vincent Merckx,

    Corresponding author
    1. Laboratory of Plant Systematics, K.U.Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 31, PO Box 2437, BE-3001 Leuven, Belgium
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  • Freek T. Bakker,

    1. National Herbarium of the Netherlands, Wageningen University Branch, Gen. Foulkesweg 37, 6703 BL Wageningen, The Netherlands
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  • Suzy Huysmans,

    1. Laboratory of Plant Systematics, K.U.Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 31, PO Box 2437, BE-3001 Leuven, Belgium
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  • Erik Smets

    1. Laboratory of Plant Systematics, K.U.Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 31, PO Box 2437, BE-3001 Leuven, Belgium
    2. National Herbarium of the Netherlands, Leiden University Branch, PO Box 9514, NL-2300 RA, Leiden, The Netherlands
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* E-mail address: vincent.merckx@bio.kuleuven.be

Abstract

Due to morphological reduction and absence of amplifiable plastid genes, the identification of photosynthetic relatives of heterotrophic plants is problematic. Although nuclear and mitochondrial gene sequences may offer a welcome alternative source of phylogenetic markers, the presence of rate heterogeneity in these genes may introduce bias/systematic error in phylogenetic analyses. We examine the phylogenetic position of Thismiaceae based on nuclear 18S rDNA and mitochondrial atpA DNA sequence data, as well as using parsimony, likelihood and Bayesian inference methods. Significant differences in evolutionary rates of these genes between closely related taxa lead to conflicting results: while parsimony analyses of 18S rDNA and combined data strongly support the monophyly of Thismiaceae, Bayesian inference, with and without a relaxed molecular clock, as well as the Swofford–Olsen–Waddell–Hillis (SOWH) test confidently reject this hypothesis. We show that rate heterogeneity in our data leads to long-branch attraction artifacts in parsimony analysis. However, using model-based inference methods the question of whether Thismiaceae are monophyletic remains elusive. On the one hand maximum likelihood nonparametric bootstrapping and parametric hypothesis tests fail to support a paraphyletic Thismiaceae, on the other hand Bayesian inference methods (both without and with a relaxed clock) significantly reject a monophyletic Thismiaceae. These results show that an adequate sampling, the use of rate homogeneous data, and the application of different inference methods are important factors for developing phylogenetic hypotheses of myco-heterotrophic plants. © The Willi Hennig Society 2009.

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