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A recent study of environmental effects on rates of molecular evolution in the plant subgenus Mearnsia shows that species occurring in more equatorial latitudes have higher rates of substitution in rDNA sequences as compared to their more southerly congeners (Wright et al. 2003). However, we believe that the statistical approach employed by Wright et al. (2003) insufficiently accounts for the phylogenetic nonindependence of the species examined, given that all six equatorial species of Mearnsia form a clade. To distinguish between the effect of latitude and that of phylogenetic nonindependence, we have employed a variety of comparative approaches that use independent contrasts to test for an effect of environment across this entire subgenus. We find very little evidence for an effect of latitude on rate of molecular evolution using these approaches and believe that the shared evolutionary history of the clade is a plausible explanation of the apparent rate difference between equatorial and subequatorial Mearnsia species.

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