On the origin of the fig: phylogenetic relationships of Moraceae from ndhF sequences

American Journal of Botany
Shannon L Datwyler, George D Weiblen


The majority of species in the mulberry family (Moraceae) are figs (Ficus), marked by a specialized inflorescence (syconium) and an obligate mutualism with pollinating fig wasps. Because of the unique morphology of the syconium, it has been difficult to investigate the evolutionary position of the fig. We sequenced the chloroplast gene ndhF to examine relationships in Moraceae and to elucidate shifts in reproductive traits. The reclassification of tribes is warranted, and the limits of Artocarpeae, Moreae, and Castilleae are revised to reflect evolutionary relationships. The results point to ancestral dioecy in Moraceae and multiple origins of monoecy, androdioecy, and gynodioecy. Ancestral wind pollination gave way to insect pollination at least twice. Strong support for the sister-group relationship of a revised Castilleae with Ficus suggests that entomophily and involucral bracts encircling the flowers preceded the evolution of the syconium. Bracts surround flowers in Castilleae only during early development, but in Ficus the involucre and the receptacle enclose the fruit as well. Molecular dating suggests that fig pollination is at least 80-90 million years old. The diversity of Ficus relative to its sister group is a likel...Continue Reading


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Related Concepts

Science of Morphology
Receptacle plant part
Ficus (gastropod)
Genes, Chloroplast
Insect Extract

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