Biffin, Ed, Timothy J. Brodribb, Robert S. Hill, Philip Thomas and Andrew J. Lowe. 2011.06.08. Leaf evolution in Southern Hemisphere conifers tracks the angiosperm ecological radiation. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.0559.
ABSTRACT. The angiosperm radiation has been linked to sharp declines in gymnosperm diversity and the virtual elimination of conifers from the tropics. The conifer family Podocarpaceae stands as an exception with highest species diversity in wet equatorial forests. It has been hypothesized that efficient light harvesting by the highly flattened leaves of several podocarp genera facilitates persistence with canopy-forming angiosperms, and the angiosperm ecological radiation may have preferentially favoured the diversification of these lineages. To test these ideas, we develop a molecular phylogeny for Podocarpaceae using Bayesian relaxed clock methods incorporating fossil time constraints.We find several independent origins of flattened foliage types, and that these lineages have diversified predominantly through the Cenozoic and therefore among canopy-forming angiosperms. The onset of sustained foliage flattening podocarp diversification is coincident with a declining diversification rate of scale/needle-leaved lineages and also with ecological and climatic transformations linked to angiosperm foliar evolution. We demonstrate that climatic range evolution is contingent on the underlying state for leaf morphology. Taken together, our findings imply that as angiosperms came to dominate most terrestrial ecosystems, competitive interactions at the foliar level have profoundly shaped podocarp geography and as a consequence, rates of lineage diversification.