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Mar 27, 2015
The American Naturalist
Evolutionary radiations with extreme levels of diversity present a unique opportunity to study the role of the environment in plant evolution. If environmental adaptation played an important role in such radiations, we expect to find associations between functional traits and key climatic variables. Similar trait-environment associations across clades may reflect common responses, while contradictory associations may suggest lineage-specific adaptations. Here, we explore trait-environment relationships in two evolutionary radiations in the fynbos biome of the highly biodiverse Cape Floristic Region (CFR) of South Africa. Protea and Pelargonium are morphologically and evolutionarily diverse genera that typify the CFR yet are substantially different in growth form and morphology. Our analytical approach employs a Bayesian multiple-response generalized linear mixed-effects model, taking into account covariation among traits and controlling for phylogenetic relationships. Of the pairwise trait-environment associations tested, 6 out of 24 were in the same direction and 2 out of 24 were in opposite directions, with the latter apparently reflecting alternative life-history strategies. These findings demonstrate that trait diversity within two plant lineages may reflect both parallel and idiosyncratic responses to the environment, rather than all taxa conforming to a global-scale pattern. Such insights are essential for understanding how trait-environment associations arise and how they influence species diversification.

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