Brevia

Floral Gigantism in Rafflesiaceae

Science  30 Mar 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5820, pp. 1812
DOI: 10.1126/science.1135260

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Abstract

Species of Rafflesiaceae possess the world's largest flowers (up to 1 meter in diameter), yet their precise evolutionary relationships have been elusive, hindering our understanding of the evolution of their extraordinary reproductive morphology. We present results of phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial, nuclear, and plastid data showing that Rafflesiaceae are derived from within Euphorbiaceae, the spurge family. Most euphorbs produce minute flowers, suggesting that the enormous flowers of Rafflesiaceae evolved from ancestors with tiny flowers. Given the inferred phylogeny, we estimate that there was a circa 79-fold increase in flower diameter on the stem lineage of Rafflesiaceae, making this one of the most dramatic cases of size evolution reported for eukaryotes.

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