Document Type




First Advisor's Name

Javier Francisco-Ortega

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Maureen Donnelly

Third Advisor's Name

Grenville Draper

Fourth Advisor's Name

Carl Lewis

Fifth Advisor's Name

Jennifer Richards


Euphorbiaceae, Antilles, Caribbean, conservation, phylogenetics, biogeography, SEM, West Indies, plant, bayesian

Date of Defense



The Caribbean Island Biodiversity Hotspot is the largest insular system of the New World and a priority for biodiversity conservation worldwide. The tribe Adeliae (Euphorbiaceae) has over 35 species endemic to this hotspot, representing one of the most extraordinary cases of speciation in the West Indies, involving taxa from Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. These species form a monophyletic group and traditionally have been accommodated in two endemic genera: Lasiocroton and Leucocroton. A study based on: (1) scanning electron microscopy of pollen and trichomes, (2) macromorphology, and (3) molecular data, was conducted to reveal generic relationships within this group. Phylogenies were based on parsimony and Bayesian analyses of nucleotide sequences of the ITS regions of the nuclear ribosomal DNA and the non-coding chloroplast DNA spacers psbM-trnD and ycf6-pcbM. One species, Lasiocroton trelawniensis, was transferred from the tribe into the genus Bernardia. Of the remaining species, three major monophyletic assemblages were revealed, one was restricted to limestone ares of Hispaniola and was sister to a clade with two monophyletic genera, Lasiocroton and Leucocroton. Morphological, biogeographical, and ecological data provided additional support for each of these three monophyletic assemblages. The Hispaniolan taxa were accommodated in a new genus with four species: Garciadelia. Leucocroton includes the nickel hyperaccumulating species from serpentine soils of Cuba, while the rest of the species were placed in Lasiocroton, a genus restricted to limestone areas. The geographic history of the islands as well as the phylogenetic placement of the Leucocroton-alliance, allows the research to include the historical biogeography of the alliance across the islands of the Caribbean based on a dispersal-vicariance analysis. The alliance arose on Eastern Cuba and Hispaniola, with Lasiocroton and Leucocroton diverging on Eastern Cuba according to soil type. Within Leucocroton, the analysis shows two migrations across the serpentine soils of Cuba. Additional morphological, ecological, and phylogenetic analyses support four new species in Cuba (Lasiocroton gutierrezii) and Hispaniola (Garciadelia abbottii, G. castilloae, and G. mejiae).





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