The evolution of the realized climatic niche in the genus Arabidopsis was studied using an almost complete phylogenetic tree based on DNA sequences of the ribosomal internal transcribed spacers. The realized climatic niche (climate space) was determined by the intersections of the distribution ranges of the taxa with climate data and is presented in temperature/precipitation diagrams. A positive correlation exists between the climate spaces of the taxa and their range sizes. The diagrams revealed a core climate; that is, a climate space in which all taxa co-exist. This core climate is almost identical to the most parsimonious reconstruction of the genus' ancestral climate space and may be considered an ancestral state of these characters. Mapping the evolutionary changes occurring in the realized climatic space on the phylogenetic tree from the core climate proved to be the most parsimonious procedure. The character complex is homoplastic; that is, many parallel evolutionary events have occurred in the subclades. With the exception of A. thaliana, which is sister to the other species of the genus and occupies a very large climate space, the late-diverged taxa of the other subclades experienced great evolutionary changes whereas the realized climate space of the taxa that diverged earlier resembles the core climate. The latter also show some parallel contractions in the climate space. It is hypothesized that the diversification of Arabidopsis may have started from small to midsized ranges in a temperate climate.
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Vol. 59 • No. 7