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Title: Evolutionary perspectives on medicinal plant use
Author: Saslis-Lagoudakis, Charilaos Haris
ISNI:       0000 0004 2716 7310
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2011
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Previous studies have found similarities in medicinal plant use between geographic regions and cultures at different spatial scales. Furthermore, it has been shown that phylogeny constrains plant use and some lineages are richer in medicinal plants than others. This thesis investigates evolutionary and cross-cultural patterns in medicinal plant use using taxonomic and phylogenetic tools at different scales of human cultural proximity, plant phylogenetic relatedness and space. Between the ethnomedicinal floras of Nepal, the Cape of South Africa and New Zealand the most prominent plant families of plant use are recorded and compared, revealing some cases of common use across the three regions. Using comprehensive phylogenetic trees of the floras from the three regions, it is revealed that plants used in traditional medicine in all three regions come from significantly similar lineages. This finding is exploited to examine whether phylogenetic tools can predict medicinal plant use in one region from the medicinal plants used in another, demonstrating positive results. Medicinal plant use is also compared between 12 comparatively closely related ethnic groups in Nepal. In general more similar medicinal floras are found between ethnic groups that live in similar environments, rather than those with close cultural relationships. This result suggests that experimentation, rather than conservatism rules ethnobotany as humans migrate to new regions and come into contact with different cultures and floras, revealing the dynamic character of ethnomedicine. Finally, the ethnomedicinal uses of the pantropical genus Pterocarpus (Leguminosae) are recorded and the phylogenetic relationships within the genus are reconstructed. The combined study of taxonomic, phylogenetic, biogeographic and ethnobotanical information provides new insights into cross-cultural patterns in plant use, and phylogenetic tools for the discovery of new plant medicines are developed and tested. Overall, the use of explicit phylogenetic tools in this thesis confirms that plant use is significantly phylogenetically clustered. This finding is recovered at the family, genus and species level.
Supervisor: Hawkins, Julie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available