Phylogenetic analyses and molecular dating estimates based on chloroplast DNA sequences were used to establish the relationships of the southern and Southeast Asian Crypteroniaceae and elucidate their biogeographic history. Maximum parsimony and likelihood analyses of rbcL sequences suggested that Crypteroniaceae should be restricted to Crypteronia, Axinandra, and Dactylocladus and that Crypteroniaceae, so defined, are sister to a clade formed by three small African taxa (Oliniaceae, Penaeaceae, and Rhynchocalycaceae) and the monotypic Central and South American Alzateaceae. Three molecular dating approaches (maximum-likelihood under a molecular clock, Langley-Fitch, and penalized-likelihood) were used to infer the age of Crypteroniaceae using both paleobotanic and geologic calibrations. Comparisons among these three methods revealed significant lineage effects in rbcL sequences. Clock-independent dating estimates suggested that divergence of Crypteroniaceae from its African and South American relatives coincided with the breakup of Gondwana, and that India likely served as a “raft” transporting Crypteroniaceae to Asia, with later expansion to Southeast Asia. To our knowledge, Crypteroniaceae are the first plant group for which the out-of-India hypothesis is well corroborated by molecular-based estimates of divergence times.
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