Phylogenetic analysis reveals a scattered distribution of autumn colours

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• Background and Aims: Leaf colour in autumn is rarely considered informative for taxonomy, but there is now growing interest in the evolution of autumn colours and different hypotheses are debated. Research efforts are hindered by the lack of basic information: the phylogenetic distribution of autumn colours. It is not known when and how autumn colours evolved. • Methods: Data are reported on the autumn colours of 2368 tree species belonging to 400 genera of the temperate regions of the world, and an analysis is made of their phylogenetic relationships in order to reconstruct the evolutionary origin of red and yellow in autumn leaves. • Key Results: Red autumn colours are present in at least 290 species (70 genera), and evolved independently at least 25 times. Yellow is present independently from red in at least 378 species (97 genera) and evolved at least 28 times. • Conclusions: The phylogenetic reconstruction suggests that autumn colours have been acquired and lost many times during evolution. This scattered distribution could be explained by hypotheses involving some kind of coevolutionary interaction or by hypotheses that rely on the need for photoprotection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)703-713
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of botany
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Plant Science


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