Spiraling into history: a molecular phylogeny and investigation of biogeographic origins and floral evolution for the genus costus

Shayla Salzman, Heather E. Driscoll, Tanya Renner, Thiago André, Stacy Shen, Chelsea D. Specht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Rapid radiations are notoriously difficult to resolve, yet understanding phylogenetic patterns in such lineages can be useful for investigating evolutionary processes associated with bursts of speciation and morphological diversification. Here we present an expansive molecular phylogeny of Costus L. (Costaceae Nakai) with a focus on the Neotropical species within the clade, sampling 47 of the known 51 Neotropical species and including five molecular markers for phylogenetic analysis (ITS, ETS, rps16, trnL-F, and CaM). We use the phylogenetic results to investigate shifts in pollination syndrome, with the intention of addressing potential mechanisms leading to the rapid radiation documented for this clade. Our ancestral reconstruction of pollination syndrome presents the first evidence in this genus of an evolutionary toggle in pollination morphologies, demonstrating both the multiple independent evolutions of ornithophily (bird pollination) as well as reversals to melittophily (bee pollination). We show that the ornithophilous morphology has evolved at least eight times independently with four potential reversals to melittophilous morphology, and confirm prior work showing that neither pollination syndrome defines a monophyletic lineage. Based on the current distribution for the Neotropical and African species, we reconstruct the ancestral distribution of the Neotropical clade as the Pacific Coast of Mexico and Central America. Our results indicate an historic dispersal of a bee-pollinated taxon from Africa to the Pacific Coast of Mexico/Central America, with subsequent diversification leading to the evolution of a bird-pollinated floral morphology in multiple derived lineages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)104-115
Number of pages12
JournalSystematic Botany
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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