Adaptation and diversification of succulent plants
Comparative Evolutionary Biology and Systematics
The succulent life form is a tried and true strategy for flowering plants to thrive in arid environments. The adaptation to store water in tissues of one or several organs allows succulent plants to retain some physiological activity when external water supply has become temporarily unavailable. Succulence has evolved independently in at least 80 major lineages and includes widely known growth form types such as cactus-like stem succulents, rosette-forming leaf succulents as well as a bewildering diversity of caudiciform and pachycaul chamaephytes and phanerophytes.
We investigate the phylogenetic relationships among the dominant succulent plant lineages of the order Caryophyllales and study the structural modifications in stems and leaves that are related to storing and retaining water in succulent plant tissues.
In a large comparative study we explore the diversification of different lineages of succulents in arid areas of southern Africa and cast light onto the ecological drivers and historical events that determined their geographical distribution, temporal origin, morphological and anatomical characteristics, as well as community structure parameters.
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