Evidence suggests that past climatic fluctuations affected speciation of extant cycads. However, empirical genetic and morphological evidence explaining patterns and processes of species diversification are scarce. There are some explanations for the origin and evolution of the genus Ceratozamia, but with inconclusive results. To elucidate the evolution of Ceratozamia, we used genetic and phenotypic sources as empirical data, which were applied in a 'proximate-ultimate' framework (ecological and evolutionary scale, respectively). Our results suggested that the evolutionary mechanisms of speciation were shaped by deterministic (natural selection-adaptation) driven by climatic conditions associated to water stress, and probably enhanced by stochastic processes (gene drift and inbreeding). In general terms, punctuated evolution models were those that best explained the patterns of speciation throughout the phylogenetic history of the lineages encompassed in the genus Ceratozamia. Finally, we provide empirical evidence on the tempo and mode of the evolution of a 'living plant fossil'.
Keywords: Character evolution; Mexico; Morphological variation; Phylogenetic signal; Punctuated evolution; Zamiaceae.
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