Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution vol:31 pages:711-729
The balsaminoid Ericales, namely Balsaminaceae, Marcgraviaceae, Tetrameristaceae, and Pellicieraceae have been confidently placed at the base of Ericales, but the relations among these families have been resolved differently in recent analyses. Sister to this basal group is a large polytomy comprising all other families of Ericales, which is associated with short internodes. Because there are more than 13 kb of sequences for a large sampling of representatives, a thorough examination of the available data with novel methods seemed in place. Because of its computational speed, Bayesian phylogenetics allows for the use of parameter-rich models that can accommodate differences in the evolutionary process between partitions in a simultaneous analysis. In addition, there are recently proposed Bayesian strategies of assessing incongruence between partitions. We have applied these methods to the current problems in Ericales phylogeny, taking into account reported pitfalls in Bayesian analysis such as model selection uncertainty. Based on our results we infer several, previously unresolved relationships in the order Ericales. In balsaminoid families, we find that the closest relatives of Balsaminaceae are Marcgraviaceae. In the Ericales polytomy, we find strong support for Pentaphylacaceae sensu APG II as the sister group of Maesaceae. In addition, Symplocaceae receive a position as sister to Theaceae and these families form a monophyletic group together with Styracaceae-Diapensiaceae. At the base of this clade are Actinidiaceae and Clethraceae. The positions of Ebenaceae and Lecythidaceae remain uncertain.