Sapindaceae systematics

The family Sapindaceae has been used to compare different methods of phylogenetic analysis.

04 Oct 2011

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Cossinia trifoliata

Cossinia trifoliata Radlk.: an endemic Sapindaceae from New Caledonia (Image: Porter P. Lowry II/Missouri Botanical Garden).

A team lead by researchers from Kew in collaboration with colleagues in Spain (Real Jardin Botanico, Madrid), Switzerland (Universities of Lausanne and Neuchâtel) and Sweden (Stockholm University) has used the family Sapindaceae as a case study to conduct two comparative studies of phylogenetic methods.

Supertree reconstruction techniques

The aim of the first study was to assess the performance of various supertree reconstruction techniques. The use of these phylogenetic inference methods has increased significantly in the last two decades and several approaches have been developed using different assumptions and algorithms. In this context, it became necessary to evaluate the performance of the various algorithms on offer, to determine which ones are the best options, especially in regard to the commonly used supermatrix approach. Based on empirical data, this study showed that the MinFlip, Matrix Representation with Parsimony, and MinCut methods outperformed the others in several aspects.

New comparisons

The second study considered the merits of two biogeographical reconstruction methods, Dispersal–Extinction–Cladogenesis (DEC; a parametric method) and Dispersal–Vicariance analysis (DIVA; a parsimony-based method), which have not been compared in this way previously. The benefits and limitations of each method were assessed and a worldwide palaeogeographic model spanning the last 110 million years was proposed to constrain the DEC biogeographic reconstruction. Such a model could be applied to any cosmopolitan plant group.

Family Sapindaceae proved to be an ideal model for these comparative analyses, and work on the systematics and evolution of the family continues at Kew. 


Item from Dr Sven Buerki (Marie Curie Fellow, RBG Kew)
Originally published in Kew Scientist, issue 39.

Article references:

Buerki, S., Forest, F., Salamin, N. & Alvarez, N. (2011). Comparative performance of supertree algorithms in large data sets using the soapberry family (Sapindaceae) as a case study. Systematic Biology 60: 32-44

Buerki, S., Forest, F., Alvarez, N., Nylander, J., Arrigo, N. & Sanmartín, I. (2011). An evaluation of new parsimony-based versus parametric inference methods in biogeography: a case study using the globally distributed plant family Sapindaceae. Journal of Biogeography 38: 531-550.

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