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Proc Biol Sci. 2009 Jul 22;276(1667):2657-65. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0334. Epub 2009 Apr 29.

The scramble for Africa: pan-temperate elements on the African high mountains.

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  • 1Institute for Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, Zollikerstrasse 107, 8008 Zurich, Switzerland.


The composition of isolated floras has long been thought to be the result of relatively rare long-distance dispersal events. However, it has recently become apparent that the recruitment of lineages may be relatively easy and that many dispersal events from distant but suitable habitats have occurred, even at an infraspecific level. The evolution of the flora on the high mountains of Africa has been attributed to the recruitment of taxa not only from the African lowland flora or the Cape Floristic Region, but also to a large extent from other areas with temperate climates. We used the species rich, pan-temperate genera Carex, Ranunculus and Alchemilla to explore patterns in the number of recruitment events and region of origin. Molecular phylogenetic analyses, parametric bootstrapping and ancestral area optimizations under parsimony indicate that there has been a high number of colonization events of Carex and Ranunculus into Africa, but only two introductions of Alchemilla. Most of the colonization events have been derived from Holarctic ancestors. Backward dispersal out of Africa seems to be extremely rare. Thus, repeated colonization from the Northern Hemisphere in combination with in situ radiation has played an important role in the composition of the flora of African high mountains.

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