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Origin and subdivision of Plagiochila (Jungermanniidae: Plagiochilaceae) in tropical Africa based on evidence from nuclear and chloroplast DNA sequences and morphology

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Maximum likelihood analyses based on the internal transcribed spacer region of nuclear ribosomal DNA and the chloroplast protein coding gene rps4 were conducted to investigate phylogenetic relationships among species of Plagiochila and to reconstruct the ranges of natural species groups within the genus. Based on the results of the molecular analyses and on morphological evidence, the tropical African species of Plagiochila are assigned to the sections Arrectae, Cucullatae, Hylacoetes, Rutilantes, Vagae, and the new sect. Africanae ( P. barteri, P. colorans ). With the exception of Africanae, all sections possess intercontinental ranges; their centers of diversity are in the tropics. Clade and species diversity in Africa is lower than in other parts of the tropics and may reflect drought periods of the Pleistocene. Intercontinental ranges at specific level exist between tropical America and Africa whereas similarities between tropical Asia and Africa were only recovered at the sectional level. ITS sequence sets were used to test the monophyly of species with intercontinental ranges and to explore the development of the Afro-American range of P. boryana. A well supported clade with accessions of P. boryana from Bolivia and Uganda is nested in the robust neotropical Hylacoetes. This topology and the low genetic distance of the different P. boryana accessions provide some evidence for long-range dispersal of P. boryana eastwards across the Atlantic, originating from the Neotropics. An African origin of the Vagae clade which includes neotropical and paleotropical taxa is suggested by the clustering of accessions from the East African Islands at the base of this clade. In addition, the presented data support the hypothesis of several switches from Africa to Asia and vice versa. A derived clade within Vagae includes accessions from the African mainland and the Neotropics. Our results seem to indicate that the extant tropical African Plagiochila flora is a mixture of old elements and rather recent immigrants.


Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Abteilung Systematische Botanik, Georg-August-Universität, Untere Karspüle 2, D-37073 Göttingen, Germany 2: Institut für Integrierte Naturwissenschaften, Biologie, Universität Koblenz-Landau, Universitätsstr. 1, D56070 Koblenz 3: Nees-Institut für Biodiversität der Pflanzen, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Meckenheimer Allee 170, D-53115 Bonn, Germany

Publication date: May 1, 2005


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