Geophytism in monocots leads to higher rates of diversification

New Phytol. 2020 Jan;225(2):1023-1032. doi: 10.1111/nph.16155. Epub 2019 Sep 27.


Geophytes, plants with buds on underground structures, are found throughout the plant tree of life. These below ground structures allow plants to inhabit highly seasonal and disturbance-prone environments across ecosystems. Past researchers have hypothesised that the bulbous, cormous and tuberous habits promote diversification, but this had yet to be tested. Using a comprehensive monocot data set of almost 13 000 taxa, we investigated the effects of the geophytic habit on diversification using both state-dependent and state-independent models. We found that geophytes exhibit increased rates of diversification relative to nongeophytes. State-dependent analyses recovered higher yet similar rates of diversification for bulbous, cormous and tuberous taxa compared with rhizomatous and nongeophytic taxa. However, the state-independent model returned no difference in rates among the different traits. Geophytism shows higher rates of diversification relative to nongeophytes but we found little support for the hypothesis that the evolution of the bulb, corm or tuber appears to provide a diversification increase relative to rhizomatous and nongeophytic taxa. Our broad-scale analysis highlights the overall evolutionary importance of the geophytic habit (i.e. belowground bud placement). However, our results also suggest that belowground morphological diversity alone cannot explain this rate increase. In order to further test the evolutionary significance of these underground structures, future studies should consider these in combination with other biotic and abiotic factors.

Keywords: hisse; MuSSE; belowground bud banks; state-dependent diversification; underground storage organs.

MeSH terms

  • Biodiversity*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Extinction, Biological
  • Flowers / physiology*
  • Genetic Speciation
  • Phylogeny
  • Stochastic Processes