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Syst Biol. 2008 Apr;57(2):269-85. doi: 10.1080/10635150802044029.

Phylogenetic analysis informed by geological history supports multiple, sequential invasions of the Mediterranean Basin by the angiosperm family Araceae.

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Institut für Systematische Botanik, Universität Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.


Despite the remarkable species richness of the Mediterranean flora and its well-known geological history, few studies have investigated its temporal and spatial origins. Most importantly, the relative contribution of geological processes and long-distance dispersal to the composition of contemporary Mediterranean biotas remains largely unknown. We used phylogenetic analyses of sequences from six chloroplast DNA markers, Bayesian dating methods, and ancestral area reconstructions, in combination with paleogeographic, paleoclimatic, and ecological evidence, to elucidate the time frame and biogeographic events associated with the diversification of Araceae in the Mediterranean Basin. We focused on the origin of four species, Ambrosina bassii, Biarum dispar, Helicodiceros muscivorus, Arum pictum, subendemic or endemic to Corsica, Sardinia, and the Balearic Archipelago. The results support two main invasions of the Mediterranean Basin by the Araceae, one from an area connecting North America and Eurasia in the Late Cretaceous and one from the Anatolian microplate in western Asia during the Late Eocene, thus confirming the proposed heterogeneous origins of the Mediterranean flora. The subendemic Ambrosina bassii and Biarum dispar likely diverged sympatrically from their widespread Mediterranean sister clades in the Early-Middle Eocene and Early-Middle Miocene, respectively. Combined evidence corroborates a relictual origin for the endemic Helicodiceros muscivorus and Arum pictum, the former apparently representing the first documented case of vicariance driven by the initial splitting of the Hercynian belt in the Early Oligocene. A recurrent theme emerging from our analyses is that land connections and interruptions, caused by repeated cycles of marine transgressions-regressions between the Tethys and Paratethys, favored geodispersalist expansion of biotic ranges from western Asia into the western Mediterranean Basin and subsequent allopatric speciation at different points in time from the Late Eocene to the Late Oligocene.

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