Diversity and constraints in the floral morphological evolution of Leandra s.str. (Melastomataceae)

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Background and Aims Putative processes related to floral diversification and its relation to speciation are still largely unaccounted for in the Melastomataceae. Leandra s.str. is one of the most diverse lineages of the Neotropical Miconieae and ranks among the ten most diverse groups in the Atlantic Forest. Here, we describe the floral diversity of this lineage in a continuous framework and address several questions related to floral evolution and putative developmental and environmental constraints in its morphology.

Methods The morphological data set includes individual size measurements and shape scores (from elliptical Fourier analysis) for hypanthia, petals, stamens and styles. We evaluate whether there is evidence of correlation among these floral structures, shifts and convergent patterns, and association of these traits with elevation.

Key ResultsLeandra s.str. flower structures present a strong phylogenetic signal and tend to be conserved among close relatives. The extremes in flower regimes seem to be quite distinct, but non-overlapping discrete flower types are not observed. Overall, the morphology of Leandra s.str. floral structures is correlated, and anther colour and inflorescence architecture correlate with flower structures. Additionally, the rates of species diversification and morphological evolution are correlated in most clades.

Conclusions Although some flower regimes tend to occur in different elevational ranges, no significant association is observed. The general idea that hypanthium–ovary fusion is associated with fruit types in the Melastomataceae does not hold for Leandra s.str., where, instead, hypanthium–ovary fusion seems to be associated with anther shape. The lowest rate of flower morphological change, when compared with species diversification rates, is observed in the clade that possesses the most specialized flowers in the group. While stuck on a single general pollination system, Leandra s.str. seems to be greatly wandering around it, given the flower diversity and convergent patterns observed in this group.

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