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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2005 Nov;37(2):402-16. Epub 2005 Aug 19.

Biogeography and divergence times in the mulberry family (Moraceae).

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Department of Plant Biology, University of Minnesota, 1445 Gortner Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55108, USA.


The biogeographical history of the mulberry family (Moraceae) was investigated using phylogenetic inferences from nuclear and chloroplast DNA, molecular dating with multiple fossil calibrations, and independent geological evidence. The Moraceae are centered in the tropics which has invited the hypothesis that the family has Gondwanan origins and extant distribution is the result of vicariance due to the break-up of Gondwana. However, the cosmopolitan distribution of Moraceae suggests a more complicated biogeographical history. The timing and location of Moraceae diversification also bears on the origin of the fig pollination mutualism, a model for the study of coevolution and specialization. Recent molecular dating of pollinating fig wasps suggested that an ancient Gondwanan origin coupled with vicariance and dispersal could account for the present day distribution of the mutualism. Here, we provide the first assessment of this hypothesis based on dating of figs and their relatives. Minimum age estimates suggest that the Moraceae had diversified by at least the mid-Cretaceous and major clades including the figs may have radiated during the Tertiary after the break-up of Gondwanaland. Molecular evidence together with Eurasian fossils suggest that the early diversification of Moraceae in Eurasia and subsequent migration into the southern hemisphere is at least as plausible as the Gondwanan hypothesis. These findings invite a reevaluation of the biogeography of fig pollination and highlight the need for incorporating multiple sources of evidence in biogeographical reconstructions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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