Australian spinifex grasses: New names in Triodia for Monodia and symplectrodia

Michael D. Crisp*, Jim Mant, Alicia Toon, Lyn G. Cook

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    The evolution of novel traits ("key innovations") allows some lineages to move into new environments or adapt to changing climates, whereas other lineages may track suitable habitat or go extinct. We test whether, and how, trait shifts are linked to environmental change using Triodiinae, C<inf>4</inf> grasses that form the dominant understory over about 30% of Australia. Using phylogenetic and relaxed molecular clock estimates, we assess the Australian biogeographic origins of Triodiinae and reconstruct the evolution of stomatal and vascular bundle positioning. Triodiinae diversified from the mid-Miocene, coincident with the aridification of Australia. Subsequent niche shifts have been mostly from the Eremaean biome to the savannah, coincident with the expansion of the latter. Biome shifts are correlated with changes in leaf anatomy and radiations within Triodiinae are largely regional. Symplectrodia and Monodia are nested within Triodia. Rather than enabling biome shifts, convergent changes in leaf anatomy have probably occurred after taxa moved into the savannah biome - they are likely to have been subsequent adaptions rather than key innovations. Our study highlights the importance of testing the timing and origin of traits assumed to be phenotypic innovations that enabled ecological shifts.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)293-296
    Number of pages4
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2015


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