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Phylogenetics of the Australian Lauraceae

The family of Lauraceae is one of the most speciose families within the Australian rainforest, in particular the genus Endiandra (39 species) and Cryptocarya (48 species).

All species in these two genera are currently treated as Sahul species (origin in Gondwana). While most species are associated with rainforest, some species of Cryptocarya, including Cryptocarya triplinervis and C. williwiliana are found in sclerophyllous and littoral forests. There are also frost tolerant species within Cryptocarya.

Traditional gene phylogenies suggested that two lineages of Cryptocarya exist within Australia with one of these sister to the South American species, Cryptocarya alba. While this group is much less speciose (5 species in Australia), its distribution largely mirrors that of the other much more speciose group and is found from Cape York, Queensland to Gosford, New South Wales.

Current research

Within Endiandra, we have struggled to resolve relationships amongst species with traditional sanger sequencing and we are now aiming to establish a full chloroplast phylogeny of the Australian members of the genus using whole genome NGS libraries. Knowledge on species-level relationships within the group will enable hypothesis driven questions regarding the evolution of the Australian rainforest. Of particular relevance is the role dispersal has played in establishing current rainforest communities and the large variety of fruit and seed size in Endiandra makes this a most suitable genus to use as study organisms. 

Some of our relevant publications:

  1. van der Merwe M, Crayn DM, Ford AJ, Weston PH, Rossetto M (2016) Evolution of Australian Cryptocarya (Lauraceae) based on nuclear and plastid phylogenetic trees: evidence of recent landscape-level disjunctions. Australian Systematic Botany 29: 157–166.
  2. Rossetto M, Yap JYS, Kooyman R, Laffan S (2015) From ratites to rats: the size of fleshy fruits shapes species distributions and continental rainforest assembly. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 282:20151998.