Phylogenetic origins of Lophocereus (Cactaceae) and the senita cactus-senita moth pollination mutualism

Stefanie Hartmann, John D. Nason, Debashish Bhattacharya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Recent ecological research has revealed that the Sonoran Desert columnar cactus Lophocereus and the pyralid moth Upiga virescens form an obligate pollination mutualism, a rare but important case of coevolution. To investigate the phylogenetic origins of this unusual pollination system, we used molecular sequence data to reconstruct the phylogeny of the four taxa within the genus Lophocereus and to determine the phylogenetic position of Lophocereus within the North American columnar cacti (tribe Pachycereeae). Our analysis included Lophocereus, six Pachycereus species, Carnegiea gigantea, and Neobuxbaumia tetetzo within the subtribe Pachycereinae, and Stenocereus thurberi as an outgroup within the Stenocereinae. Extensive screening of chloroplast and mitochondrial genomes failed to reveal sequence variation within Lophocereus. At a deeper phylogenetic level, however, we found strong support for the placement of Lophocereus within Pachycereus as sister group to the hummingbird-pollinated P. marginatus. We discuss possible hypotheses that may explain the transition from bat pollination (ancestral) to moth and hummingbird pollination in Lophocereus and P. marginatus, respectively. Additional phylogenetic analyses suggest that the genus Pachycereus should be expanded to include Lophocereus, Carnegiea, Neobuxbaumia, and perhaps other species, whereas P. hollianus may need to be excluded from this clade. Future study wilt be needed to test taxonomic distinctions within Lophocereus, to test for parallel cladogenesis between phylogroups within Lophocereus and Upiga, and to fully delineate the genus Pachycereus and relationships among genera in the Pachycereinae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1085-1092
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


  • Carnegiea
  • Chloroplast DNA
  • Lophocereus
  • Mutualism
  • Neobuxbaumia
  • Pachycereus
  • Pollination
  • Stenocereus

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