The order Fabales, including Leguminosae, Polygalaceae, Quillajaceae and Surianaceae, represents a novel hypothesis emerging from angiosperm molecular phylogenies. Despite good support for the order, molecular studies to date have suggested contradictory poorly supported interfamilial relationships. Our reappraisal of relationships within Fabales addresses past taxon sampling deficiencies, and employs parsimony and Bayesian approaches using sequences from the plastid regions rbcL (166 spp.) and matK (78 spp.). Five alternative hypotheses for interfamilial relationships within Fabales were recovered. The Shimodaira-Hasegawa test found the likelihood of a resolved topology significantly higher than the one calculated for a polytomy but did not favour any of the alternative hypotheses of relationship within Fabales. In the light of the morphological evidence available and the comparative behavior of rbcL and matK, the topology recovering Polygalaceae as sister to the rest of the order Fabales with Leguminosae more closely related to Quillajaceae Surianaceae, is considered the most likely hypothesis of interfamilial relationships of the order. Dating of selected crown clades in the Fabales phylogeny using penalized likelihood suggests rapid radiation of the Leguminosae, Polygalaceae, and (Quillajaceae Surianaceae) crown clades.
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