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Perez Escobar, Oscar Alejandro (2016): Molecular phylogenetics, evolution of sexual systems and historical biogeography of Darwin's favourite orchids (Catasetinae) and Swan orchids (Cycnoches Lindl.). Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Biology



The Orchidaceae are one of the most species rich and widespread lineages among angiosperms. They have evolved numerous remarkable vegetative and reproductive traits that have allowed them to successfully adapt and diversify into a wide array of environments. More importantly, they have developed several intricate symbiotic relationships with different kinds of organisms (e.g. animals, fungi) that for centuries have attracted the attention of botanists, biologists, amateurs and naturalists. Nevertheless, despite the extensive research done so far on orchid biology and phylogenetics, very little is known about the biotic and environmental variables as well as the evolution of several key traits that seem to be linked with the successful diversification of this lineage. This dissertation is focused on three puzzling aspects of plant evolutionary biology, specifically the phylogenetic incongruence between nuclear and plastid genomes, the evolution of sexual systems, and lineage migration and isolation through time. To address these topics, I chose as a group of study the sub tribe Catasetinae, an orchid lineage including ca. 350 species restricted to the Neotropical region. They show a remarkable set of sexual systems, namely protandry and Environmental Sex Determination (ESD), that were never studied before in a phylogenetic context. My dissertation includes as well a minor part on taxonomic and floristic work devoted to other representative orchid lineages of the Neotropical flora (i.e. Epidendrum and Lepanthes). Based on vegetal material collected during field trips, my taxonomic research resulted in the description of several new species and new chorological reports contributing to the Colombian and Costa Rican Floras. Using a set of nuclear and chloroplast loci obtained from material cultivated at the Botanic Garden Munich and collected during field work in several Latin American countries, I produced a well-supported and insofar the most representatively sampled phylogeny of Catasetinae. While gathering vegetal material, I encountered several complications such as extreme scarcity of individuals and worrisome, extensive bureaucratic administrative processes to obtain collection and research permits that finally undermined my taxon sampling. By studying in detail the Catasetinae internal phylogenetic relationships independently derived from nuclear and plastid loci, I came across several well supported conflicting phylogenetic positions. Most of the traditional phylogenetic methods developed to address these conflicts aim at the inference of a species tree only. In chapter 5, I explored the utility of co-phylogenetic tools (i.e. PACo and ParaFit) to quantify the conflicts between nuclear and plastid genomes. These tools have been largely employed in host-parasite/endosymbiont studies, hence they have the power to assess the contribution of single Operational Terminal Units (OTUs) to the phylogenetic pattern observed. As a result, using the Catasetinae chloroplast and nuclear datasets and extensive simulation approaches, I demonstrate that PACo successfully detects conflicting OTUs and its performance is overall better than ParaFit. In addition, my research provided strong evidence towards the bias of input data type (i.e. phylograms and cladograms) on distance-based co-phylogenetic methods. A pipeline to execute PACo and ParaFit tools in the software R to detect conflicting sequences in either small or big datasets was designed After inferring a strongly supported phylogeny, and by carrying in-situ and ex-situ observations plus searches of specialized literature on reproductive biology, I investigated the evolution of sexual systems of Catasetinae. I relied on Ancestral State Reconstruction (ASR) approaches and Bayesian statistical frameworks (chapter 6). As a result, ASR revealed three independent gains of ESD, once in the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of Catasetum, Cycnoches and part of Mormodes, respectively, always derived from a protandrous ancestors. In contrast, protandry appears to have evolved only once, at the LCA of Catasetum, Clowesia, Cycnoches, Dressleria and Mormodes. The last chapter of this dissertation deals with the impact of the Andean uplift, the most important orographic event in South America, on evolution of epiphytic lowland Neotropical lineages. I used as a group of study Cycnoches (a member of the Catasetinae), which includes ca. 34 species and is distributed in Neotropical lowland wet forests. To address this goal, I produced the most completely sampled phylogeny of Cycnoches, and relied on Bayesian dating and Ancestral Area Estimation (AAE) approaches. The LCA of Cycnoches lived ca. 6 million years ago (MYA) in the Amazonian region. From this area, it expanded towards Central America and Choco in multiple migrations well after main Andean mountain building episodes. In addition, stochastic character mapping showed that within-region speciation (i.e. speciation in sympatric lineages) was a key process linked to diversification and range distribution evolution in Cycnoches.