The plant genus Halenia (Gentianaceae) consists of herbs growing in temperate and tropical alpine habitats and most species possess flowers in which nectar is produced in spurs. This probably helps reward only specialized long-tongued pollinators, and a narrow pollinator/flower relationship is thought to accelerate diversification rates (a key innovation). To test the pattern of diversification of Halenia against the unspurred sister group we reconstructed phylogenetic relationships among 22 species plus outgroups using nuclear ITS and chloroplast rpl16 intron sequence data. We show that Halenia originated in East Asia and migrated via North America into Central America. From there, it colonized South America three times independently, probably within the last million years. Significant changes in diversification rates were found during the evolution of Halenia using a sister group method, a likelihood method, and a diversity-through-time plot. In contrast to other studies, we could not observe a direct speciation rate effect of the evolution of nectar spurs in comparison with the unspurred sister group of Halenia. Rather, increases in diversification occurred following the colonization of Central and South America by spurred progenitor taxa. This later switch in diversification may have resulted from the availability of new geographical and ecological opportunities, or from the availability of more and different pollinators in these regions. Following the latter hypothesis, the nectar spurs were a preadaption and functioned as a key innovation only in this new biotic environment. After an initial rapid increase, a reduction in diversification rate was observed in Central America, probably illustrating density dependence of speciation rates. Finally, we found preliminary evidence for the key innovation hypothesis in geologically young spurred and unspurred lineages of Halenia in South America.
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Vol. 57 • No. 11