We conducted the first molecular phylogenetic study of Ficus section Malvanthera (Moraceae; subgenus Urostigma) based on 32 Malvanthera accessions and seven outgroups representing other sections of Ficus subgenus Urostigma. We used DNA sequences from the nuclear ribosomal internal and external transcribed spacers (ITS and ETS), and the glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (G3pdh) region. Phylogenetic analysis using maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods recovered a monophyletic section Malvanthera to the exclusion of the rubber fig, Ficus elastica. The results of the phylogenetic analyses do not conform to any previously proposed taxonomic subdivision of the section and characters used for previous classification are homoplasious. Geographic distribution, however, is highly conserved and Melanesian Malvanthera are monophyletic. A new subdivision of section Malvanthera reflecting phylogenetic relationships is presented. Section Malvanthera likely diversified during a period of isolation in Australia and subsequently colonized New Guinea. Two Australian series are consistent with a pattern of dispersal out of rainforest habitat into drier habitats accompanied by a reduction in plant height during the transition from hemi-epiphytic trees to lithophytic trees and shrubs. In contradiction with a previous study of Pleistodontes phylogeny suggesting multiple changes in pollination behaviour, reconstruction of changes in pollination behaviour on Malvanthera, suggests only one or a few gains of active pollination within the section.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
N.R. thank M. Thomas (K), H.V. Hansen (C), D. Dixon (DNA) and C.C. Berg (BG) for providing plant material, Jean-Yves Rasplus for information on Pleistodontes blandus, Dale Dixon, Finn Kjellberg and an anonymous reviewer for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. This work was partly supported by a Marie Curie Outgoing International Fellowship within the 6th European Community Framework Program (N.R./V.S.) and the NERC (UK) (J.M.C.).