These are just a few examples of papers that would fit the bill for your taxonomic paper, but are not from the sort of straight-and-narrow pathway just to give you a sense of what your range of options are

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These are just a few examples of papers that would fit the bill for your taxonomic paper, but are not from the sort of straight-and-narrow pathway…. just to give you a sense of what your range of options are. You can use these as a springboard for new ideas of your own, or you are welcome to use any of these as well – but you should e-mail me to check in if you’d like to do that. I don’t want too many people using the same paper(s), and one of these examples is quite short and the paired paper would need to be selected carefully. What I am trying to do here is mostly to encourage you to have fun with this assignment – think about what your interests are, and how you could meld what you would like to learn more about anyway with a taxonomic issue or question. There are articles that pertain to taxonomy in the fields of conservation biology, forensic botany, paleobiology, and all sorts of other issues I’m probably not thinking of. So be creative!


Brouat, C., D. McKey, et al. (2004). "Differentiation in a geographical mosaic of plants coevolving with ants: phylogeny of the Leonardoxa africana complex (Fabaceae : Caesalpinioideae) using amplified fragment length polymorphism markers." Molecular Ecology 13(5): 1157-1171.

Comprising four allopatric subspecies that exhibit various grades of ant-plant interactions, from diffuse to obligate and symbiotic associations, the Leonardoxa africana complex (Fabaceae, Caesalpinioideae) provides a good opportunity to investigate the evolutionary history of ant-plant mutualisms. A previous study of the L. africana complex based on chloroplast DNA noncoding sequences revealed a lack of congruence between clades suggested by morphological and plastid characters. In this study, we analysed phylogenetic relationships within the L. africana complex using a Bayesian probability approach on amplified fragment length polymorphism markers. The results reported permit partial validation of the four subspecies of L. africana previously defined by morphological and ecological markers. Incongruences between phylogenies based on chloroplast DNA and amplified fragment length polymorphism markers are discussed in the light of morphological and ecological data, and confronted with hypotheses of convergence, lineage sorting and introgression.

Feild, T. S., N. C. Arens, et al. (2004). "Dark and disturbed: a new image of early angiosperm ecology." Paleobiology 30(1): 82-107.

Better understanding of the functional biology of early angiosperms may clarify ecological factors surrounding their origin and early radiation. Phylogenetic studies identify Amborella, Nymphaeales (water lilies), Austrobaileyales, and Chloranthaceae as extant lineages that branched before the radiation of core angiosperms. Among living plants, these lineages may represent the best models for the ecology and physiology of early angiosperms. Here we combine phylogenetic reconstruction with new data on the morphology and ecophysiology of these plants to infer early angiosperm function. With few exceptions, Amborella, Austrobaileyales, and Chloranthaceae share ecophysiological traits associated with shady, disturbed, and wet habitats. These features include low and easily light-saturated photosynthetic rates, leaf anatomy related to the capture of understory light, small seed size, and clonal reproduction. Some Chloranthaceae, however, possess higher photosynthetic capacities and seedlings that recruit in canopy gaps and other sunny, disturbed habitats, which may have allowed Cretaceous Chloranthaceae to expand into more diverse environments. In contrast, water lilies possess ecophysiological features linked to aquatic, sunny habitats, such as absence of a vascular cambium, ventilating stems and roots, and floating leaves tuned for high photosynthetic rates in full sun. Nymphaeales may represent an early radiation into such aquatic environments. We hypothesize that the earliest angiosperms were woody plants that grew in dimly lit, disturbed forest understory habitats and/or shady streamside settings. This ecology may have restricted the diversity of pre-Aptian angiosperms and living basal lineages. The vegetative flexibility that evolved in the understory, however, may have been a key factor in their diversification in other habitats. Our inferences based on living plants are consistent with many aspects of the Early Cretaceous fossil record and can be tested with further study of the anatomy, chemistry, and sedimentological context of Early Cretaceous angiosperm fossils.

Kawakita, A., A. Takimura, et al. (2004). "Cospeciation analysis of an obligate pollination mutualism: Have Glochidion trees (Euphorbiaceae) and pollinating Epicephala moths (Gracillariidae) diversified in parallel?" Evolution 58(10): 2201-2214.

Species-specific obligate pollination mutualism between Glochidion trees (Euphorbiaceae) and Epicephala moths (Gracillariidae) involves a large number of interacting species and resembles the classically known fig-fig wasp and yucca-yucca moth associations. To assess the extent of parallel cladogenesis in Glochidion-Epicephala association, we reconstruct phylogenetic relationships of 18 species of Glochidion using nuclear ribosomal DNA sequences (internal and external transcribed spacers) and those of the corresponding 18 Epicephala species using mitochondrial (the cytochrome oxidase subunit I gene) and nuclear DNA sequences (the arginine kinase and elongation factor-1alpha genes). Based on the obtained phylogenies, we determine whether Glochidion and Epicephala have undergone parallel diversification using several different methods for investigating the level of cospeciation between phylogenies. These tests indicate that there is generally a greater degree of correlation between Glochidion and Epicephala phylogenies than expected in a random association, but the results are sensitive to selection of different phylogenetic hypotheses and analytical methods for evaluating cospeciation. Perfect congruence between phylogenies is not found in this association, which likely resulted from host shift by the moths. The observed significant discrepancy between Glochidion and Epicephala phylogenies implies that the one-to-one specificity between the plants and moths has been maintained through a complex speciation process or that there is an underestimated diversity of association between Glochidion trees and Epicephala moths.

Percy, D. M., R. D. M. Page, et al. (2004). "Plant-insect interactions: Double-dating associated insect and plant lineages reveals asynchronous radiations." Systematic Biology 53(1): 120-127.

An increasing number of plant-insect studies using phylogenetic analysis suggest that cospeciation events are rare in plant - insect systems. Instead, nonrandom patterns of phylogenetic congruence are produced by phylogenetically conserved host switching ( to related plants) or tracking of particular resources or traits ( e. g., chemical). The dominance of host switching in many phytophagous insect groups may make the detection of genuine cospeciation events difficult. One important test of putative cospeciation events is to verify whether reciprocal speciation is temporally plausible. We explored techniques for double-dating of both plant and insect phylogenies. We use dated molecular phylogenies of a psyllid (Hemiptera) - Genisteae (Fabaceae) system, a predominantly monophagous insect - plant association widespread on the Atlantic Macaronesian islands. Phylogenetic reconciliation analysis suggests high levels of parallel cladogenesis between legumes and psyllids. However, dating using molecular clocks calibrated on known geological ages of the Macaronesian islands revealed that the legume and psyllid radiations were not contemporaneous but sequential. Whereas the main plant radiation occurred some 8 million years ago, the insect radiation occurred about 3 million years ago. We estimated that >60% of the psyllid speciation has resulted from host switching between related hosts. The only evidence for true cospeciation is in the much more recent and localized radiation of genistoid legumes in the Canary Islands, where the psyllid and legume radiations have been partially contemporaneous. The identification of specific cospeciation events over this time period, however, is hindered by the phylogenetic uncertainty in both legume and psyllid phylogenies due to the apparent rapidity of the species radiations.

Sargent, R. D. (2004). "Floral symmetry affects speciation rates in angiosperms." Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences 271(1539): 603-608.

Despite much recent activity in the field of pollination biology, the extent to which animal pollinators drive the formation of new angiosperm species remains unresolved. One problem has been identifying floral adaptations that promote reproductive isolation. The evolution of a bilaterally symmetrical corolla restricts the direction of approach and movement of pollinators on and between flowers. Restricting pollinators to approaching a flower from a single direction facilitates specific placement of pollen on the pollinator. When coupled with pollinator constancy, precise pollen placement can increase the probability that pollen grains reach a compatible stigma. This has the potential to generate reproductive isolation between species, because mutations that cause changes in the placement of pollen on the pollinator may decrease gene flow between incipient species. I predict that animal-pollinated lineages that possess bilaterally symmetrical flowers should have higher speciation rates than lineages possessing radially symmetrical flowers. Using sister-group comparisons I demonstrate that bilaterally symmetric lineages tend to be more species rich than their radially symmetrical sister lineages. This study supports an important role for pollinator-mediated speciation and demonstrates that floral morphology plays a key role in angiosperm speciation.

Stewart, C. N., G. Rosson, et al. (1996). "Population genetic variation in rare and endangered Iliamna (Malvaceae) in Virginia." Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 58(3): 357-369.

Random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers were used as input for an analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA), homogeneity of molecular variance analysis (HOMOVA), and cluster analysis to describe the population genetic structure of Ihiamna corei, a federally endangered plant located only in Virginia, and I. remota, a rare plant in Virginia, Indiana, and Illinois. The analysis was performed to help clarify the taxonomic relationship between the two closely related species. We analysed four clones in the only known population of I. corei, breeding stock derived from seeds originating from the population site, and three I. remota populations in Virginia. Eighty-five percent of screened primers revealed DNA polymorphisms in Ihiamna. Ninety-nine informative markers were generated using seven primers. No significant statistical differences (at P = 0.05) in RAPD variation was found between species (24% of variance) using the AMOVA procedure. However, within species/among populations (31% of the variance) and within populations (45% of the variance) there were significant differences (P < 0.002). An unweighted paired group method using arithmetic averages (UPGMA) cluster analysis showed the federally endangered I. corei population to be genetically distinct from the apparently recently introduced (in Virginia: similar to 100 ybp) I. remota. The lack of significant differences from the AMOVA and the high number shared bands between I. corei and I. remota suggest that I. corei may be more appropriately classified as a subspecies of I. remota. Ihiamna corei plants in the natural population were genetically similar to one another while the I. corei breeding stock plants and I. remota plants were genetically relatively diverse. (C) 1996 The Linnean Society of London

Stuessy, T. F., K. Tremetsberger, et al. (2003). "The melding of systematics and biogeography through investigations at the populational level: examples from the genus Hypochaeris (Asteraceae)." Basic and Applied Ecology 4(4): 287-296.

In recent years molecular data, especially from DNA, have provided more precise estimates of relationships among vascular plants. Different types of data have been used efficaciously at different levels of the taxonomic hierarchy from ordinal and familial classifications to genetic variation within populations. The impact on systematics has been enormous, often confirming previous hypotheses established through morphological or other data, but sometimes offering novel and surprising insights. Although it is far from clear which genes or intergenic regions will eventually be known to contain the most helpful phylogenetic information for general and special classification, it is abundantly clear that a genetic yardstick will be used routinely. The impact of molecular data on plant systematics is now having a similar import in biogeography. Sequence data, as well as DNA fingerprinting of various types, are now being employed to assess patterns of isolation and speciation, timing of changes of distributions and speciation events, routes of migration and/or dispersal, population-level divergence, and hybridization. Systematics and biogeography, therefore, are melding together more closely than ever before, because the same kinds of data can be used to address questions regarding evolutionary relationships as well as patterns of distribution in space and time. Data at the populational level are especially helpful in a multidisciplinary context for answering questions regarding infraspecific affinities and for explaining distributions resulting from recent historical and ecological factors. Examples from the genus Hypochaeris (Asteraceae) from southern South America, using DNA sequence and AFLP data, are used to illustrate these points. The genus appears to have originated in Eurasia, dispersed to South America during the past several million years, and radiated into more than 45 species that are adapted to many different ecological regimes.

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