© 2016 Elsevier Inc. Heliconia (Heliconiaceae, order Zingiberales) is among the showiest plants of the Neotropical rainforest and represent a spectacular co-evolutionary radiation with hummingbirds. Despite the attractiveness and ecological importance of many Heliconia, the genus has been the subject of limited molecular phylogenetic studies. We sample seven markers from the plastid and nuclear genomes for 202 samples of Heliconia. This represents ca. 75% of accepted species and includes coverage of all taxonomic subgenera and sections. We date this phylogeny using fossils associated with other families in the Zingiberales; in particular we review and evaluate the Eocene fossil Ensete oregonense. We use this dated phylogenetic framework to evaluate the evolution of two components of flower orientation that are hypothesized to be important for modulating pollinator discrimination and pollen placement: resupination and erect versus pendant inflorescence habit. Our phylogenetic results suggest that the monophyletic Melanesian subgenus Heliconiopsis and a small clade of Ecuadorian species are together the sister group to the rest of Heliconia. Extant diversity of Heliconia originated in the Late Eocene (39 Ma) with rapid diversification through the Early Miocene, making it the oldest known clade of hummingbird-pollinated plants. Most described subgenera and sections are not monophyletic, though closely related groups of species, often defined by shared geography, mirror earlier morphological cladistic analyses. Evaluation of changes in resupination and inflorescence habit suggests that these characters are more homoplasious than expected, and this largely explains the non-monophyly of previously circumscribed subgenera, which were based on these characters. We also find strong evidence for the correlated evolution of resupination and inflorescence habit. The correlated model suggests that the most recent common ancestor of all extant Heliconia had resupinate flowers and erect inflorescences. Finally, we note our nearly complete species sampling and dated phylogeny allow for an assessment of taxonomic history in terms of phylogenetic diversity. We find approximately half of the currently recognized species, corresponding to half of the phylogenetic diversity, have been described since 1975, highlighting the continued importance of basic taxonomic research and conservation initiatives to preserve both described and undiscovered species of Heliconia.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Iles, W., Sass, C., Lagomarsino, L., Benson-Martin, G., Driscoll, H., & Specht, C. (2017). The phylogeny of Heliconia (Heliconiaceae) and the evolution of floral presentation. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 117, 150-167. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2016.12.001