Molecular phylogeny of tribe Rhipsalideae (Cactaceae) and taxonomic implications for Schlumbergera and Hatiora

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Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution


Tribe Rhipsalideae is composed of unusual epiphytic or lithophytic cacti that inhabit humid tropical and subtropical forests. Members of this tribe present a reduced vegetative body, a specialized adventitious root system, usually spineless areoles and flowers and fruits reduced in size. Despite the debate surrounding the classification of Rhipsalideae, no studies have ever attempted to reconstruct phylogenetic relationships among its members or to test the monophyly of its genera using DNA sequence data; all classifications formerly proposed for this tribe have only employed morphological data. In this study, we reconstruct the phylogeny of Rhipsalideae using plastid (trnQ-rps16, rpl32-trnL, psbA-trnH) and nuclear (ITS) markers to evaluate the classifications previously proposed for the group. We also examine morphological features traditionally used to delimit genera within Rhipsalideae in light of the resulting phylogenetic trees. In total new sequences for 35 species of Rhipsalideae were produced (out of 55; 63%). The molecular phylogeny obtained comprises four main clades supporting the recognition of genera Lepismium, Rhipsalis, Hatiora and Schlumbergera. The evidence gathered indicate that a broader genus Schlumbergera, including Hatiora subg. Rhipsalidopsis, should be recognized. Consistent morphological characters rather than homoplastic features are used in order to establish a more coherent and practical classification for the group. Nomenclatural changes and a key for the identification of the genera currently included in Rhipsalideae are provided. Research highlights Molecular phylogeny of Rhipsalideae reconstructed with plastid and nuclear markers. Phylogenetic framework indicates that Hatiora and Schlumbergera are paraphyletic. A broader Schlumbergera is recognized including Hatiora subg. Rhipsalidopsis. Consistent morphological characters support clades representing genera. Nomenclature changes and a key for the identification of genera are provided.

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