Ant-plant mutualisms are abundant in the tropics and are popular models for ecological study, but investigating the origin and evolution of such systems requires a phylogenetic framework. A common ant-plant mutualism in the Neotropics involves the genus Cecropia, a group of fast-growing pioneer trees that are important in forest regeneration. Relationships between genera in the tribe Cecropieae (Urticaceae), including Cecropia, Coussapoa, Musanga, Myrianthus, and Pourouma, are unknown and are necessary to investigate the evolutionary history of the Cecropia-ant mutualism. Bayesian phylogenetic analyses of the NADH dehydrogenase (ndhF) chloroplast gene region, the 26S region of nuclear ribosomal DNA, and an exon-primed intron-crossing DNA region support the position of non-myrmecophytic African Musanga within a paraphyletic Cecropia. Neotropical Pourouma and Coussapoa are supported as sister taxa with African Myrianthus as their closest relative. Although it remains uncertain whether myrmecophytism was the ancestral condition of the Cecropia clade, a close relationship between non-myrmecophytic Cecropia sciadophylla and Musanga suggests that the loss of ant associations did not accompany African colonization.
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Vol. 41 • No. 1